Stirling Mortlock plotting Wallabies demise in London
This weekend the Wallabies will take on the Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium. One of the players who will be donning the famous black and white strip is former Aussie skipper Stirling Mortlock. TIM MARTIN chatted to the Wallaby legend to see how preparations are going.
THIS weekend the Wallabies, Australia’s national rugby union team, will take on the Barbarians, an invitational rugby squad made up of some of the best players in the world, at London’s Twickenham Stadium. In an epic and much anticipated match, the Barbarians will be hoping for victory over the boys from Down Under which will give them a hat-trick of southern hemisphere scalps after they beat South Africa in 2010 and New Zealand in 2009. Helping the Baa Baas cause will be someone who knows the Australian team very well, former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock. As the only Aussie in the black and white team, Stirling knows only too well that he’ll have his hands full against his old side but is relishing the challenge. TIM MARTIN chatted to the former ACT Brumby, now Melbourne Rebel, and found out what the Barbarian challenge means to him.
Stirling, you’re playing for the Barbarians on Saturday, how exciting is that for you?
It’s very exciting, in particular when you look at the squad that’s assembled. There’s some outstanding players, many of whom I know pretty well but a lot who I don’t but that’s all part of it, getting to know each other and socially having a good time and likewise having some good training sessions and hopefully playing some really positive attacking rugby on Saturday. So really looking forward to it.
Is it a massive honour to be invited to play for one of the world’s favourite rugby sides?
Oh certainly, from my perspective it’s a huge honour. To put it in context, I think the Barbarians hold up that traditional mindset that rugby’s all about – really enjoying time off the pitch and likewise really playing some positive attacking style of rugby on the pitch. When I was a young lad, I owned two jerseys, one was a Baa Baas jersey and one was a New Zealand Maori jersey and I wore them both pretty much out! I have certainly always wanted to play for the Baa Baas and unfortunately a couple of times due to injury I wasn’t able to do it but I’m very excited I will be putting on the Baa Baas strip this weekend!
Your Barbarians debut will be against the Wallabies – your old team, your national team. How are you feeling about that?
Little bit torn to be honest. It’s a bit weird, the one chance I do get to play for the Baa Baas it happens to be against Australia but I think that’s a good thing as well. You get opportunities to play against your mates at provincial level and that’s always a lot of fun so I think this will be a lot of fun as well. From my perspective, I’ve played at Twickenham a lot of times and they don’t support you but this time will be a little bit different and I’m sure I will be getting a lot of support from the local crowd.
Playing against your old teammates and being the only Aussie in the Baa Baas side, do you think you’ll be targeted a bit more than the other blokes?
Probably! I expect nothing less actually. A bit of banter is pretty common out there on the pitch and I’ll go into this game expecting a few of the boys to be throwing a few little daggers my way, but it’ll all be in good fun and hopefully I can follow through with some actions rather than some words.
Do you have any particular points to prove or old scores to settle?
I’ve tended to play one way throughout my career and that’s throw everything that I’ve got into playing and I’ll certainly be looking at doing that. But also we want to play that Baa Baas style of rugby that’s attacking and free-flowing rugby and I certainly want to be part of that as well. Looking forward to getting the balance right and working with some really quality players in our team and getting to know them off the pitch and likewise working alongside some pretty outstanding coaches in Graham Henry and Steve Hansen.
Out of all the rugby stars that make up this Barbarians squad, who are you most looking forward to playing with?
To be honest it’s pretty tough to isolate one or two. When I was looking at the playing sheet – there’s so many talented players across the pitch – we’ve got outstanding frontrowers, obviously Victor Matfield is a legend of a bloke and a great player, and the backrow are all awesome as well. And then the backline, there’s quality all across it so it’s very hard to say one or two, I’m just looking forward to being part of it. I think the Baa Baas club, the team, is unique and I think it’s a great honour to be part of it and looking forward to all of it!
Are you excited to have English rugby league star Sam Tomkins in the side?
Definitely, I was only watching that match [Four Nations final against Australia] the other day with Danny [Cipriani] and we were mentioning how well he’s played and surely enough we find out the next day he’s playing with us! So it’s pretty weird how things work but again that’s the nice thing about the Baa Baas rugby team, there’s always one uncapped player. In this case, Sam’s come off a big year and a half of playing league and obviously a pretty tough series [Four Nations] and next thing he’s going to be playing at Twickenham for the Baa Baas so it’s going to be a great opportunity for him and likewise for us. I’m just looking forward to hopefully making his job as easy as possible.
2012 represents season number two for your Super 15 team, the Melbourne Rebels. Do you think you can improve on this year’s impressive debut performances?
I’ve been really impressed with the way the whole organisation is looking to build on our first year. It was a fantastic first year, one that I would have liked to get a few more wins up but not withstanding that, you know the support we received from our members was fantastic. The atmosphere they provided at AAMI Park (our home venue) was something that’s unique to probably all of Australia and we’re looking to hopefully give back to them a bit more quality and a bit more consistency next year.
The Rebels will be buoyed by two huge signings in Wallabies Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor. Do you think they will make a big impact for the club?
Yeah definitely, both those guys are fantastic signings for the Rebels. Both James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale came to our induction camp a week ago and they’re really keen to play well for us. And likewise! Danny and myself and all the other backs are really looking forward to really getting a good backline going. But having said that there’s also some exciting young forwards we have signed up and I’m really looking forward to getting back there and building. Hopefully next year we might surprise a few teams.
Lastly, what do you enjoy most about coming to London?
It’s interesting, usually at this time of the year you don’t get to see too much sun, it’s unique. We left Melbourne and it was almost 30 odd degrees and came to London and it was quite chilly but the forecast isn’t too bad and hopefully it will be nice day on Saturday for some free-flowing, attacking footy. I think I’ve always found it really difficult to get W’s [wins] up when we come to this part of the globe at this time of the year so hopefully I can get one of those this weekend as well.
Tickets for Barbarians v Australia at Twickenham Stadium on 26 November (14.35) can be purchased via RFU.com/tickets or Ticketmaster 0844 847 2492