George Bridge missed a holiday with friends to play for the Barbarians against New Zealand at Twickenham. For players, the BaaBaas represent rugby as a game, not a job
In the match programme, George Bridge, full-back for Canterbury, the Crusaders, and now the Barbarians too, is listed as being 22 years old. But in the evening after Saturday’s match, he seemed much younger than that. He was wearing conspicuously new clothes, slacks, jacket and a flat cap that he had bought earlier in the week, and they seemed to fit him too well, as if he had just been dressed by his mum for his school photograph. After the match, he waited patiently off to one side while the press interviewed the All Blacks, smiling all the while. It was a big goofy grin, and he did not seem any more aware of it than he did of the fresh blue bruise on the bridge of his nose.
Bridge was a happy man. He was meant to be in Bali this week, on holiday with his mates. He got the phone call from the Barbarians on the Saturday before the match. So he scrapped his travel plans, packed his kit, and got on a flight to London instead. In the changing room at half-time, when the Barbarians were leading 17-10, their head coach Robbie Deans turned to Bridge and said: “This is better than Bali, isn’t it?” Bridge agreed with him, it sure was. He said later that he felt like a little kid again, playing on a frosty morning back in Gisborne where he grew up.