What Is The Barbarians Rugby Team?

If you are a casual fan of rugby you may have heard of a team going by the name the Barbarians, hell you may even caught this mythical team in action once or twice. From the outside the club who are affectionately named the Baa-Baas seem like an odd bunch with players from Fiji, Ireland, Australia and pretty much anywhere you find good rugby.

Despite their miss matched appearance they tend to be pretty good and on their best day can give top tier international teams a run for their money. But who exactly are the Barbarians? And where did this club come from? 

What is the Barbarians rugby team?

The Barbarians is an invite only club that each year invites players from around the world to play a few exhibition matches. The goal of the club is to promote the camaraderie of rugby by bringing together different nationalities and to promote attacking and exciting rugby without the focus on winning. They are the Harlem Globetrotters of Rugby.

Who Created The Barbarians Rugby Team?

The Barbarians were created in 1890 by William Percy Carpmael, a keen rugby player who was a forward for Cambridge University. Inspired by a rugby tour undertaken in Yorkshire, Carpmael wanted to increase the amount of rugby touring and fixtures throughout the year so created the first touring only side, the Barbarians.

During Carpmael’s time rugby finished up in early May. During that time period there were no matches and players would have to wait until the next season to get their rugby fix. Carpmael wasn’t satisfied by this and wanted to continue playing rugby year round.

Inspired by his great memories of rugby tours while playing with Cambridge, Carpmael came up with the idea of a touring club that could continue playing rugby matches well after the official season had ended. This helped rugby players get more match time and brought together players from rival clubs together to form close bonds and friendships.

Do The Barbarians Have A Home Ground?

The Barbarians are a purely touring side. They have no home ground or stadium. They travel to all their matches at the invitation of other clubs. They are always on the road and have played in 25 countries.

The Barbarians are not your average club. They have no sports ground or training club. They don’t have a changing shed or a gym. They do it all on the road. Whenever a club invites them to play a match they are ready to answer the call and hop on a bus, train or even a plane and face another club under any circumstances.

It is not easy always being the touring side. Going into rival territory can get the best of even the most seasoned rugby players. However, the Barbarians have always and continue to thrive in such an environment.

Can Anyone Play For The Barbarians?

Any rugby player can be invited to play for the Barbarians. The Barbarians club selection is based on a player’s rugby ability and their behaviour on and off the pitch. The club does not discriminate and over 25 nationalities have represented the club.

04.06.11 – Wales v Barbarians – DHL Challenge – Sergio Parisse, Iosefa Tekori, Mathieu Bastareaud, Paul Sackey, Joe Van Niekerk, Paul Tito and Carl Hayman of Barbarians line up for the national anthems. © Huw Evans Picture Agency

Players from a variety of races and ethnicities have donned the famous black and red and represented the Barbarians. When selecting a side the club is looking for high quality players who have shown themselves to be good representatives of rugby. If you are a high level professional rugby player who loves the game then the Barbarians would want you on their side.

Do The Barbarians Rugby Players Get Paid?

The Barbarians are a professional club and the players get paid based on a percentage of the gate revenue and TV rights. They are paid in cash with top players receiving as much as $20,000-$30,000 for their services.

We got a glimpse into how much the Barbarians pay their players when in early 2011 Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley Cooper were caught at Sydney airport with $20,000 each in cash after returning from Europe. The two were fined for not declaring the money but the dynamic duo were able to keep their money after they told police they had made the cash playing for the Barbarians in December. Fortunately, for them they only had to pay $220. 

Why Do The Barbarians Wear Odd Socks?

The Barbarians wear odd socks to represent their home clubs and to signal that even though they all come from different backgrounds they are united by the Barbarian rugby spirit of unity and passion for the game. The odd socks also highlight the Barbarians touring history and their multicultural background.

Have The Barbarians Ever Beaten The All Blacks?

In 1973 at Cardiff Arms Park the Barbarians defeated the All Blacks 23-11 in a stunning upset. In what is described as one of the best tries in rugby history Gareth Edwards scored in the corner after the Barbarians took possession in their own 22 and guided the ball through 7 pairs of hands. 

The Barbarians victory over the All Blacks may be their most famous win. However, their victory over an undefeated Springbok touring side in 1961 also ranks as a world class win. The Barbarians managed to defeat the Springboks 6-0 after showing tremendous grit in defence, putting on a tackling clinic. The Barbarians were presented with a Springbok head trophy which is reserved for the first team to beat a touring South African side.

The Barbarians have been very successful over the years and currently hold a winning record over Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They also have managed to beat Australia 3 times and England 8 times. Not too bad for a touring club made up of rugby misfits.


The Barbarians are an odd yet great club that have been a part of some fantastic moments in rugby. The unique club have played a big role in developing the strong sportsmanship and camaraderie amongst rugby players. The fact the Barbarians will select any player irrespective of background and are always willing to go up against the best teams in the world and give them hell is what rugby is all about.


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