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Chance to show your best

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It’s not just the fans who made the most of an opportunity at the Barbarians match at Welford Road this week.
The Leicester versus Barbarians match in days gone by was often seen as an unofficial extra international trial.

It provided an opportunity for Tigers to play against world-class opposition and stake their claim in front of the great and the good in the stands.

Barry Evans was notably one who benefited, outplaying England incumbent Mike Slemen to earn a call up for national honours, and there were many before him who used their biggest stage to do likewise.

On Tuesday it appeared the roles had been reversed.

The Tigers players have many opportunities to push their names forward to the national coaching team; they are on TV most weeks, they go head to head with their challengers on a regular basis and they play in high-profile matches in European competition.

This time, it was the Baa-baas who had a chance to shine from just left of centre-stage.

As Cockers put it afterwards, “If those guys are not good enough to get into the All Blacks backline, then it makes you wonder just how good the All Blacks backline is.”

He was referring to the skills of the three Kiwis who started the game in the Barbarians backline, though they were by no means alone in showcasing their talents.

Playing at full-back, Tevita Li could be one of the ‘next big things’ in Kiwi rugby, while Frank Halai and Francis Saili have already tasted Test rugby with the All Blacks.

They were assisted by Juan de Jongh, who could have had a hat-trick but gifted a final try to Jacques Botes on his final professional appearance, plus accomplished internationals Nick Cummins, Marnitz Boshoff and Fumiaka Tanaka.

If this was indeed an international audition, they all did themselves justice. And for the supporters who shared the occasion, no doubt they will always look out for their breakthrough at the next level and able to share their “I was there” moment.