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House of Payne: Baa-Baas are victims of professional era
8:00am Sunday 1st June 2014 in Sport
In the days before Sky came along with their multiple sports programmes there used to be a little occasional gem the BBC used to show called 100 Great Sporting Moments, writes John Payne.
It was a little treat that used to pop up every now and then – you could relive Ronnie Radford scoring for Hereford against Newcastle in the FA Cup and hundreds of boys in their Parker coats running onto the field; or Gary Sobers becoming the first player to score six sixes in an over.
One of the most memorable, was a try scored by Gareth Edwards for the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park in 1973.
Even to this day, particularly in Wales, it is lauded as the ‘greatest try ever scored’.
It was one of those occasions when those in the crowd would be proud to say ‘I was there’. I wonder how many will be saying that at Twickenham today when the Barbarians take on England.
It is probably an inevitability of professionalism, but the great history of the Baa-Baas is now reduced to a warm-up match for a string of England novices before they head out on a tour of New Zealand.
True, there are 700 caps in Dean Ryan’s 24-strong squad for Sunday’s fixture but its appeal is probably best summed up by the fact Wowcher, Groupon and Amazon Local have been offering cut-price tickets to the game.
Good luck to anyone who has bought a ticket from as little as a tenner, it’s tremendously good value, but at the same time it’s a shame that one of the great names in rugby union has been reduced to that.
Think how different it could be if, say, Leigh Halfpenny, Sam Warburton or Mike Phillips were to wear the famous black and white shirts like Edwards, JPR Williams and Phil Bennett did 40 years ago.
The professional era has brought much good to rugby – the World Cups and the exciting domestic and European competitions.
It’s just a shame, in the name of progress, the Baa-Baas have become a relic of their former glories.