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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 12 May 2021
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'I have a newfound respect for the United Nations after Baa-Baas training'

Shane Jennings has been named as captain of the Baa-Baas team to face Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.

CLEARLY SHANE JENNINGS would prefer to be going out in a Guinness Pro12 final, or after another European medal earlier this month, but he is honoured to head towards retirement as captain of the Barbarians.

The 33-year-old will lead the famous invitational side against Joe Schmidt’s Ireland on Thursday, having joined up with the Baa-Baas at Adare Manor yesterday.

LeinsterÕs Shane Jennings Jennings is heading for retirement from professional rugby. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Customary pints followed in the locality last night and Jennings is keen to enjoy his final week as a professional player, one which might end against England at Twickenham on Sunday as the Barbarians play twice in four days.

First up is his last hurrah in Ireland, oddly enough on Limerick soil and against several of his Leinster mates. Barbarians coach Robbie Deans only informed Jennings at training this morning that he would be skipper for Thursday.

“It is a huge honour,” said Jennings this afternoon in Adare. “I was very surprised to be honest, but Robbie said it to me this morning and I was actually quite shocked.

It was already an honour just to get selected and to be invited so I think I’m speaking on behalf of all the players when I say we’re pretty excited to try and go out and keep the tradition.”

Jennings is adamant that he and his teammates will treat the Baa-Baas jersey with the utmost respect, both in terms of delivering a strong performance and enjoying the experience they’re so fortunate to be having.

Alongside him in the starting XV to face Ireland are the likes of Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Joe Rokocoko, Ryu Koliniasi Holani and Adam Jones, a veritable cocktail of international rugby talent.

“It’s funny, I have a newfound respect for the United Nations after our lineout training this morning!” said Jennings.

Australia Wallabies Head Coach Robbie Deans during the training Deans is working alongside coach Robbie Deans this week. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We had Uruguayans, Japanese, Irish, English and trying to get calls and some idea of what we want to do was a challenge, but it’s brilliant because you’re rubbing shoulders against players you would have played against for years and would have respected.

“There’s a lot of talented players there, we just have to make sure that we get the ball, hold onto it and we can play well.”

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Jennings feels it will be a “strange” experience to play against his Leinster friends, scrum-half Eoin Reddan having indicated that he’s not quite looking forward to facing the highly competitive flanker.

The Barbarians captain is now an ex-Leinster player in truth, meaning the province’s parting of ways with head coach Matt O’Connor won’t affect his playing days. Jennings did, however, work with the Australian for the last two seasons and says he was surprised by the announcement.

“Players play, players don’t make decisions on coaches,” said Jennings. “It was done by the powers that be in Leinster. We were brought in and we were told what happened on Thursday morning.

“It’s not nice when a coach loses his job and his family have to go through that trauma. Look, from a personal point of view it’s very, very tough, but players play and that’s the nature of the beast with rugby unfortunately.

Shane Jennings Jennings was capped 13 times by Ireland during his career. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s a pretty brutal game for everybody involved at times. Thankfully I don’t have to make those decisions.”

While stressing that he was more keen to discuss the Barbarians, Jennings said that Leinster’s lack of form in the last number of months made this outcome all the more likely.

“Everybody knows what happened in Leinster and that it was not the season that Leinster wanted to have in terms of performance or wanting to achieve, which was unfortunate.

But over the course of the season you usually get what you deserve and I think we got what we deserved. We came close in the Champions Cup, but in the league our form wasn’t good enough. That’s not just on one player, that’s on a lot of people.”

Thankfully for Jennings, he has the chance to have an altogether happier ending to his career, even if Schmidt’s Ireland side manage to win on Thursday. A competitor until the end, Jennings will work doggedly to ensure that’s not the case.

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Murray Kinsella

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