Cardiff Blues duo, Max Llewellyn and Will Boyde, have reflected on their ‘surreal’, ‘whirlwind’ experience of linking up with the Barbarians squad ahead of last month’s cancelled clash against England.
13 of the Baa Baa’s original squad were forced to withdraw after breaking Covid protocols, paving the way for the duo, alongside team-mate Ioan Davies, to be called up to the iconic invitational side, who have a rich history with the Welsh capital. However, unfortunately for the Cardiff Blues players, a decision would later be made to call the game off.
The opportunity came around thanks to John Mulvihill’s contacts, with the Cardiff Blues coach being part of the backroom staff for the 2017 tour, facing Australia. Mulvihill, who joined Alan Jones and Brian Smith in the management team, overlooked a squad containing the likes of Quade Cooper, Tim Nanai-Williams, Wycliff Palu and Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Back row Boyde admits he still has to pinch himself when reflecting on the 24 hour whirlwind but is delighted to come home with some special mementos.
“It was a very minimal experience! But in all honesty, it was a bit of a whirlwind and obviously if it had come around it would’ve been a dream come true,” said the 25 year old.
“But now I’m happy to be fit and playing rugby again and relieved that the body is holding out now.
“I had an all you can eat, five star experience for 24 hours and that was it! Nothing more to it.
“If you pop down to Penarth market after Covid regulations have lifted you’ll be able to find some stash down there.
“I got some nice pyjamas! No, it was only a few t-shirts. I’ll wear them to bed, say I was there for 24 hours and claim that.
“Honestly, it went from getting ready to be fit and preparing for the Ulster game, with the squad for Munster already selected.
“But on our day off I was in bed and getting ready to chill, but the phone call came and it went from zero to 100 miles an hour to get to London.
“I was back fit and ready to play, and looking forward to it. But that was short lived.
“It was pretty surreal having John pulling some strings there but now it’s back to the day job.
“When it was called off, the boys were pretty flat and it was disappointing.
“I’m still young though. Everyone thinks I’m older than I am so I’ve got a few more years left to try to grab that honour.”
Many of the Arms Park’s famous sons have worn the famous Black and White jersey over the years. From Gerald Davies to Barry John, and from Dr Jack Matthews to Jamie Roberts.
In fact, it was a Cardiff who was responsible for the most famous moment in Barbarian FC history, with Gareth Edwards’ score against New Zealand at the Arms Park in 1973 still widely considered the best try ever scored.
In more recent years, the likes of Martyn Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny, Adam Jones and Andy Powell all represented the Baa Baas, and in the current squad, Lloyd Williams, Josh Adams and Aled Summerhill are among the players to pulled on the iconic jersey.
Centre Llewellyn, who penned his first senior deal with the region over the summer, was looking to follow in his father’s footsteps by representing the famous club.
Lock, Gareth, wore the iconic black and white shirt in the 1989 clash against Leicester Tigers, featuring alongside David Campese, Will Carling and Andy Robinson - father of Cardiff Blues back row, Olly.
Max added: “It was crazy really, to get the phone call asking if you want to play for the Barbarians.
“It’s an honour that’s up there just behind playing for Wales.
“But it was a really good experience even if I didn’t get to play. I got to go down there, meet all the people and be in that environment.
“There were a few international boys from Fiji and I really enjoyed it there. It was nice to experience it with Boydey and Ioan Davies.
“If I could, I’d love to go back, finish it off and play a game. That would be great.
“My father did play a game for Barbarians, but it wasn’t an international. He played against a club side, so I probably would’ve achieved something that he didn’t.
“But there’s still a long way for me to go if I want to achieve what he’s achieved in rugby.”