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Baabaas Would Be Favourites With Good Buildup - Mallett

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By Mark Geenty of NZPA London, Dec 3 NZPA - Coach Nick Mallett reckons his thrown-together Barbarians would be favourites if they took on the All Blacks after six weeks' rugby preparation. That's why the Italy and former Springboks coach quickly claimed underdog status at a freezing, windswept Richmond Athletic Association ground despite his star-studded lineup facing a largely second-string All Blacks side here on Sunday (NZT). After an initial Tuesday training he labelled "a shambles", the Barbarians had their final serious shakedown today and left Mallett more impressed, but realistic about the task. "It's the hardest of all challenges to play against a New Zealand side because they are so well organised and defensively they have not conceded a try in this November series," Mallett said. "The type of rugby they play is a Barbarians style of rugby anyway. They have some very good outside backs, great loose forwards, great cleaning skills, they are just a very experienced side and the form team over November. "Probably not over 2009, I think South Africa was the form team overall, but at the end of the year New Zealand have had the best results." Mallett has assembled arguably the strongest Barbarians side in recent memory, captained by Springboks lock Victor Matfield with six other Boks in the starting lineup including winger Bryan Habana, halfback Fourie du Preez and flanker Schalk Burger. Wallabies Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom and George Smith will also start, while 60-test All Black Joe Rokocoko will mark 20-year-old Zac Guildford on the right wing. Their only concern was Welsh second five-eighth Jamie Roberts limping away from training. Meanwhile, the All Blacks' second-stringers have largely trained together since their frustrating 20-6 win over Italy in Milan three weeks ago. Captain Richie McCaw bolsters the pack while Cory Jane shifts to fullback to form a back three with tour newcomers Guildford and Ben Smith. Mallett said it was tricky all over the park for his side, with an eclectic front row of uncapped South African WP Nel, Boks hooker Bismarck du Plessis and Italian Salvatore Perugini; Matfield trying to direct the lineout and du Preez and Giteau rushing to form an effective halves combination. "You get a guy like (Victor) Matfield who has 20 minutes of lineouts and hoping to win 80-90 per cent of your ball, which is what you need to be competitive. That's the sort of difficulties in this game in terms of organisation. "That's to the benefit of the All Blacks. Even though that team hasn't played together much they have been involved in the All Blacks set-up on tour for six weeks and they are clear about their structure and organisation. "I think individually if this Barbarians team were given six weeks on tour and we were playing this All Blacks team I'd say we would probably be firmly favourites for the game." Mallett expected the All Blacks scrum would want to prove a point, and the style of the match would depend on the weather which was grey and cold with the threat of rain today. His team talk would be simple, as he knew personal pride and the lure of beating the All Blacks was enough motivation. "I think the players are mature enough to realise that if they are not up for the game they will get a thrashing. "Australia beat the Barbarians in Australia by 50 points and that can happen with a scratch team that's a bit casual in their approach. "We really have to hope this team won't be like that. The individuals who have been picked are competitive and they don't want to make fools of themselves, so hopefully we perform well." NZPA SYD mg co

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