CAPE TOWN — Shane Jennings will make the final appearances of his professional career for the Barbarians against Ireland and England.
The flank will be joined by Leinster team-mates fullback Zane Kirchner and flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth for the games against Ireland at Thomond Park (May 28) and an England XV at Twickenham (May 31).
They will line up alongside the likes of Joe Rokocoko, George Smith, Adam Jones, Alex Cuthbert, Gio Aplon and Thomas Waldrom for the famous invitation club that celebrates the 125th anniversary of its foundation this year.
Jennings brings down the curtain after 13 caps for Ireland and Pro-12 and European Cup wins with Leinster, as well as a Premiership title in England during his two-season spell at Leicester Tigers.
He said farewell to the Leinster fans at the RDS Arena earlier this month after a difficult Pro-12 and European campaign for his provincial side before getting the invitation to join the Barbarians from former Australia coach Robbie Deans.
Jennings said: “This will be my last go as a professional player.
“It’s a shame it didn’t end as I would have liked with Leinster but every cloud has a silver lining and I can’t wait to get going and to wear the jersey.
“I did get called up a couple of years ago but couldn’t do it. It’s funny that I’m finally going to be able to do it against Ireland.”
While Leinster have rebuilding to do, there is a feel-good factor around rugby in Ireland after sustained international success that led to this season’s Six Nations title win and strong performances from the provinces.
But Jennings warns Ireland will have a tougher task to sustain level of performance on English soil in the autumn. “Leinster haven’t been at their best but Connacht have done well to get into the playoff [against Gloucester], Munster and Ulster are still going well and the state of Irish rugby is very good at the moment.
“Confidence will be high going into those World Cup warm-up games but the fitness of the squad is important. It’s key that and the likes of Paul O’Connell and Jonny Sexton remain fit.
“Maybe managing expectations is a problem. We played well in the Six Nations but that doesn’t give you the automatic right to do well in a World Cup.” — Sport24