England’s Barbarian FC is Rugby’s most famous ‘itinerant invitation’ team. The majority of the players to have become a ‘Barbarian’ were from the four traditional Home Nations sides and British clubs, but until the 1950s the names of Aussies too can be found scattered amongst the team line-ups.  

In March 1890, Blackheath FC’s W.P. ‘Tottie’ Carpmael lamented that the Rugby season was already over, even though there were still a few good weeks of football weather remaining. It is also bothered Carpmael that the club system meant always playing with the same men, and rarely with his friends and foes from other clubs.

Carpmael’s solution was the formation of the Barbarian FC; a composite team of specially selected and invited gentlemen footballers, to go on tour, sharing goodwill while having a good time.


Fellow founding player, WJ Carey, composed the club’s motto:

Rugby football is a game for gentlemen in all classes, but for no bad sportsman in any class.

Nearly 3000 invited players have turned out for team during the past 125 years. Harlequin’s captain and England star forward of the 1920s William Wavell Wakefied:

“I believe that the Barbarians by their attitude to the game and style of play has helped to maintain at a high level the right approach to our amateur winter game of Rugby Union Football.”

The roll of honour of Australians selected for the Barbarians begins in modern times with David Campese, chosen in late December 1988 during one his Northern summer sabbaticals in Italian club Rugby.

Others in the decades since to don the famous black-and-white hoops include Nick Farr-Jones, Brian Smith, Michael Lynagh, Pat Howard, Matt Burke, John Eales, Phil Waugh, Stirling Mortlock, George Gregan, Brock James, Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and James O’Connor.

Others have missed out. The unluckiest must be Australia’s WW2 hero Weary Dunlop. A Wallaby in the 1930s, Dunlop moved to London to study medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital, and accepted an invitation to play for the Barbarians against Cardiff at the end of 1939. Unfortunately a frozen pitch saw the fixture cancelled, and Dunlop never got another chance.

Dunlop was far from the being the first Aussie, with the connection going right back to when the Baa Baas’ made their debut against Hartlepool Rovers at the ‘Old Friarage Field’ in December 1890.

Barbarian FC: 18 games 1890-93
England 1890-95, 13 caps (2 as captain), forward

Born in Ashfield, the Woods family lived at Fairlight near Manly. At 16 years old Sydney Grammar schoolboy sailed to England to complete his education at Silwood House, Brighton College and then Cambridge University. By the late 1880s was a powerful Rugby forward in the Somerset county team, selected in North v South trials, and was first chosen for England in 1890. Also had the honour of being a member of the first ever Barbarian FC side. Played Test cricket for Australia and England, and was still in Somersetshire XI in 1910.

Lyndhurst GIBLIN
Barbarian FC: 2 games 1895
England 1896-97, 3 caps, forward

The Hobart-born son of a prominent Tasmanian politician, Giblin had never seen a Rugby game until he arrived in England to further his education. Studying at University of London and then Cambridge, while at the latter he won selection for England. Also played for Blackheath FC. In 1898 he joined in the gold rush to Alaska and the Canadian north-west, returned home in 1904, and built a highly respected and prominent career in statistics and economics.

Garnet ‘Jerry’ PORTUS
Barbarian FC: 1 game 1908
England 1908, 2 caps, fly-half

Former Sydney University player, Portus attended Oxford University (history & economics), but unable to break into the first XV, gained prominence after moving to Blackheath FC, twice playing for England (vs France & Ireland). After returning home became a Wallabies selector, and helped establish Rugby in Adelaide, coaching the South Australian XV.

Leonard ‘Bruno’ BROWN
Barbarian FC: 4 games 1910-11
England 1911-14 & 1921-22, 18 caps (1 as captain), prop

Brown was a forward for Brisbane Grammar School, Past Grammars and Queensland Reds (including vs 1908 British Lions). Studying medicine at Oxford University, made his debut for England in 1911. His try against Scotland at Twickenham in 1913 secured for England their first ever ‘Grand Slam’. NSWRU rep on England RFU committee 1922-49 (RFU President ‘48-49), assisted formation of the Australian RU, and the IRB granting full status to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Allan Warren Linford ROW
Barbarian FC: 6 games 1919-23
no international ‘caps’, position unknown

Born in Grenfell in NSW, Row studied at Brisbane Grammar School and Queensland University, and was awarded a Rhodes scholarship late in 1913. The outbreak of WW1 though saw Row volunteer with the AIF, serving as a captain in the artillery. With the war over Row finally arrived at Oxford University. Had a long Rugby career in England, selected for ‘Dominions Universities’ versus a combined Oxford-Cambridge XV in 1927 at Twickenham.

Barbarian FC: 2 games 1922-23
Scotland 1921-22, 7 caps, fullback

After attending King’s School in Parramatta, Forsayth moved to Oxford University, where both England and Scotland officials sought to woo him. He chose Scotland, and played two solid seasons, until overlooked in favour of Dan Drysdale. Playing for Blackheath FC in 1923 critics judged him the best fullback in all English club Rugby, but, of course, he was now ineligible for England.

Barbarian FC: 8 games 1921-24
Wallabies 1920-32, 14 caps, flyhalf

There is a definite statement in the club song to the effect that the Barbarians do not train for the Rugby game, but play it, with a will. It is a happy tour and an excellent finish to the season.” – Tommy Lawton, Barbarian FC 1921-24

Brisbane Grammar School ‘old boy’ Lawton served with AIF in France in WW1. Moved to Sydney University to study medicine in 1920, and won selection for NSW against New Zealand. A Rhodes scholarship took him to Oxford University where he became a prominent flyhalf. Also played for Blackheath FC, the highly popular ‘colonial’ was controversially left out of England sides during his stay. Returned to Sydney in 1925 where he won back his NSW jersey, and was a member of the 1927/28 ‘Waratahs’ that toured Great Britain and France (NSW games in 1920s were later given Test status). Lawton captained the Wallabies versus 1930 British Lions and five times against All Blacks 1928-32.

AC ‘Johnnie’ WALLACE
Barbarian FC: 6 games 1922-24
Scotland 1923-26, 9 caps // Wallabies 1921 & ’26-28, 8 caps; wing three-quarter

Sydney Grammar School and Sydney University player, advanced to the NSW team for their 1921 tour to New Zealand. Entered Oxford University to study law in 1922, and via his family heritage, was invited to play for Scotland. A member of the Scots’ first Five Nations ‘Grand Slam’ team in 1925. Over the winter of 1927-28 he played against all five Home Nations, including Scotland, when captain of the famous NSW Waratahs team that toured Britain and France.

Barbarian FC: 4 games 1924
Wallabies 1920-23, 13 caps, wing three-quarter

A favourite son of the Drummoyne club and Sydney Grammar School, Raymond saw military action in the latter stages of WW1. While studying medicine at Sydney University he played 13 international games for NSW, including against the All Blacks and Springboks. Arriving at Oxford University in late 1923, Hec Forsayth had declared ‘Raymond will walk straight into the English team’. The Waratah took some time to live up to the ‘booming’, and though chosen on three occasions in early 1925 to play fullback for England, late club injuries cruelly robbed him of a ‘cap’. Raymond also played for Blackheath and London Hospital clubs, and remained in the UK across the 1930s working as a surgeon, then as a medical command officer with the British Army in Europe through WW2. Raymond settled back in Sydney in 1948.

Barbarian FC: 6 games 1924-25
Scotland 1924-33, 32 caps, wing three-quarter

Melbourne-born Smith moved with his family to Edinburgh while still a youth. At Oxford University he made it clear his Rugby allegiance was to Scotland (where his parents had been born). Tagged ‘the flying Scotsman’ he ran in 24 tries for Scotland in his Four Nations career, and twice grabbed 4 tries during the 1925 ‘Grand Slam’ series. Smith was also a member of the 1924 British Lions tourists, playing in two matches against the Springboks. Inducted into the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame, his club career also included Edinburgh University and London Scottish.

Ambrose John FOOTE
Barbarian FC: 1 game 1925
no international ‘caps’, wing three-quarter

Originally from Ipswich in Queensland, Foote came to prominence as a winger for Sydney University during their New Zealand tour in 1922. The following year Foote played in the Varsity team that won the inaugural Shute Shield premiership, but then stepped away from all football (including a place in the NSW squad to visit New Zealand) to concentrate on his medical studies. Rewarded with a Rhodes scholarship, Foote went to Oxford University at the end of 1924. He took up Rugby while in England, playing for Oxford, London Hospital FC and for ‘Dominions Universities’ versus a combined Oxford-Cambridge XV at Twickenham early in 1927. His brother Reginald played three games for the Waratahs against the All Blacks in the mid 1920s that are now regarded as Wallabies appearances.

Barbarian FC: 4 games 1925-26
no international ‘caps’, forward

Hailing from Merriwa in country NSW, Bettington boarded at King’s School in Parramatta. In 1919 he entered Oxford University and away from his studies came into sporting prominence as a cricketer. It was not until 1920 that Bettington emerged as a Rugby player, most notably for his long-range goal kicking which proved invaluable to the ‘dark blues’. Gifted with a fine tall physique, Bettington was a splendid forward, and his services were sought out by Harlequins for club matches. He never gained international honours, but playing for both the cricket XI and Rugby XV at Oxford was a rare feat, particularly for an Australian.

Barbarian FC: 3 games 1928
Wallabies 1921-27, 18 caps, fly-half / inside centre

The son of a Narrabri publican, educated at King’s School in Parramatta, Sheehan was the bright young hope of post WW1 Rugby in Australia, making his international debut as an 18 year old for NSW in 1921 in a three-match series against the Springboks. Sheehan captained Sydney University to back-to-back premiership crowns in 1923-24, and remained a cornerstone of NSW teams right through the 1920s, culminating with the 1927/28 Waratahs tour of the UK and France. A qualified doctor, Sheehan remained in England after the tour for a post graduate course, and turned out regularly for London Hospital and Blackheath clubs.

Barbarian FC: 2 games 1936-37
England 1937, 2 caps, flanker

Born near Adelong in rural NSW, Campbell first took up Rugby at King’s School (Parramatta), where he captained the First XV. While studying at Cambridge University he continued to play the game, and despite his surname’s obvious Gaelic lineage, accepted an invitation to turn out for England. A hard-working forward, Campbell was most fondly remembered for his last minute 50m try-scoring run at Twickenham that gave the English a 9-8 victory over Ireland. He later became a noted Australian poet.

And let’s add a mention of Emile DE LISSA from the Barbarian FC web site: 

Emile de Lissa was the second President of the Barbarian FC from 1936-1955. He had been on the Committee from 1905 serving as honorary secretary, honorary treasurer and vice-president … born in Sydney on 30 January 1871 and educated at Sydney Grammar School before emigrating to England where he continued his studies at University College School in London. He became a member of Blackheath FC where his administrative skills were put to good use. He was also secretary of United Hospitals and from 1932-48 fulfilled a similar role at Richmond Athletic Ground. In 1933 he compiled and edited the first statistical history of the Barbarians in book form, ‘Barbarian Records, 1890-1933’.

Other Australians to have gained the coveted reward of a Baa Baa jersey in the amateur era of Rugby include JB Nicholls, BH Travers, Doug Keller, ‘Larry’ Webb, Norman Hughes and Nick Shehadie.

© Sean Fagan

 Match appearances stats: Barbarian FC. Other non-international players listed in the club’s records may be Australians known to have been at Oxford University in the same/near time period & had a rugby background, including:
CJG Stanley (1 game, 1927) is possibly Ronald Gordon ‘Bot’ Stanley (Sydney University / NSW 1921-24)
FS Kendall (2 games, 1930) is possibly AE Kendall (Sydney Grammar / Sydney University early 1920s)