The Barbarians invited the Rugby Journal behind the scenes for an in-depth look at the club during the build-up to the Quilter Cup match against England at the end of the season. We — and they — couldn’t have picked a better week. 

Head Coach Pat Lam assembled a superstar side and they ran in nine tries in a record 63-45 win at Twickenham, including a hat-trick for exiled England wing Chris Ashton.

The story is told in 6,500 words and 24 pictures featuring all the major personalities — including Lam, Ashton, Juan Martin Ferndandez Lobbe, Finn Russell, Justin Tipuric, Loni Uhila, Benjamin Kayser, Josh Matavesi and the club’s 92 year-old president Micky Steele-Bodger.

Below are some of their insights from an incredible week. 

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Pat Lam’s team philosophy begins, perhaps as you’d expect, with a clip of Gareth Edwards’ 1973 try. It would seem obvious but for the fact he stops it before the Welsh legend touches down, instead rewinding it to the beginning when the ball is collected, deep in the Barbarians’ half. “That was from a kick and look how many players got back,” he says, in front of a frozen screen full of Barbarian players in their own 22. “That’s team culture.”

Pat Lam

Pat Lam leads the final preparations in Richmond. Pictures: Han Kee de Boer for Rugby Journal

Chris Ashton’s name is the one often given by his fellow Barbarians when asked who’s surprised them most — they all like him. “I just like to win,” he says. “I try to do it with a smile on my face and sometimes that can be offensive to people. Say if you drop a ball or something happens, it was never intended by anyone, it was a mistake. I always want to see the better side of things and look for the next opportunity.”

Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe’s final ever game is looming, nervous? “I’m at peace,” he says. “I have done everything, I’ve prepared mentally and physically for this to be my last year and I really enjoyed the whole last year so I’m ready to go.” How good is his Toulon colleague Semi Radradra? “I’ve been lucky to play beside him every week and he is a rugby superstar,” he says. “He could dominate the rugby pitch for years to come. Everything about him is so good. He has the physical attributes, the brain, the work ethic, he understands the game. He’s complete.”

Chris Ashton

Relaxed: Chris Ashton in the Barbarians’ team room

Loni Uhila, the Tongan Bear, was the man behind the try celebrations, the Barbarians handshake and all manner of untold things from the week. His post-try routine was a familiar sight at Twickenham. 

“We wanted to celebrate every little thing we’ve done that was good – and we did a lot of good things. If you could play rugby like this every week – 23 men coming together from different parts of the world and coming up with a performance like that in a week. As the coach said, this is the only time we’ll play together as a team, it will never happen again, it’s a one-off, it’s special. It’s actually kind of sad, but I’ll spend the rest of my life remembering my only Test at Twickenham.”

Niyi Adeolokun

Niyi Adeolokun takes on a posse fo England defenders

Fellow frontrower Ben Kayser said: “It was even better than I thought it would be. You can’t explain it, it’s just special. Especially when you play in France where it’s very intense, there’s so much pressure and stress. This week, it’s been what rugby is about, having a few laughs, a few drinks, it’s what the core of rugby is. 

“We’ve drifted a little bit away from that. Yes, the crowds are great, but even so you lose a little bit of soul. This has put me at peace, I fell in love with the game again in just five days. It’s one of the best games I’ve been involved in and it’s the only trophy I’ve lifted, so it’s extremely special for me. It’s a privilege, a real honour, I’ve got to stop talking now, because if I carry on I’ll get really choked up. It’s just wonderful.”

Benjamin Kayser

Benjamin Kayser’s faith in rugby was restored