ALAN Jones's reasons for bringing The Barbarians to Lismore are twofold: to benefit the city and to take the game back to its grassroots.
"If rugby doesn't get out into the regions, it is my view rugby will have a limited life," he said.
Mr Jones was speaking exclusively to The Northern Star in the lead-up to next Tuesday's match between International Barbarians v Classic Wallabies at Crozier Oval.
The former Australian rugby coach said he'd enjoyed a long association with the city and region (in particular due to his anti-CSG views) and agreed the invitational match would be "of great benefit to Lismore".
"It is going to be a great opportunity to meet the local community, visit schools and look after the grass roots of the game."
He said in times of adversity "sport was a great unifier" enabling people to escape "the ordeals of everyday life and feel they are important."
"It is just as important for them to see a test team play as the crowd at The Alliance Stadium," he said.
"Country Rugby has a proud tradition in this country and we have allowed it to wane. Too much sport has become Sydney- centric and it is not good for the game and it isn't good for the players either."
Mr Jones said when he was coaching Australia in the '80s players would travel to the regions, Vanuatu and Auckland.
These days they hardly saw out of a hotel room.
When asked to come back to coach the Barbarians by administrators in England and New Zealand he saw it as a way of "generating interest in the game, get people through the turnstiles again".
"There's no use gilding the lily, rugby has struggled in recent years due to adverse behaviour in the administration and that does not help anyone."
Mr Jones is taking on the role after a "tough year" recovering from septicaemia which made him critically ill.
"I won't be running up and down the sidelines of the paddock but I've just had to take a spoonful of cement and toughen up, and I'll be expecting the same from the team.
"I am also looking forward to spending an afternoon in Lismore at a special lunch on Sunday."
He said the full composition of the team for Lismore will be announced next week.
It has already been confirmed Quade Cooper will captain The Barbarians side against the Classic Wallabies on October 28 at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
The international contingent also contains All Black George Moala, Auckland halfback Augustine Pulu and elusive Samoan fullback Tim Nanai-Williams as well as new-comers such as Theo Strang.
"Anything we can do for the local community and Lismore, that's what we'll be there for."
All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards flood relief for the town.
NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said the fixture was secured by the NSW Government in collaboration with Lismore City Council and "would be a huge boost and unique event for the region".
"Securing this major event for Lismore will prove a huge draw card for the region, attracting thousands of visitors to the area and tourist dollars into the pockets of local businesspeople," Mr Marshall said.
"I am also pleased to announce that all proceeds from ticket sales will go towards flood relief for the town, supporting the local community as it continues to recover from the severe weather earlier this year.
Sunday October 22
1pm for 1:30pm start
Lismore Turf Club, Racecourse Rd, Lismore
$100 per person
2 course luncheon and drink on arrival
Call Lismore Events on 02 6621 3413
Kick off for the game is: 5.30pm Tuesday.
Tickets at www.visitlismore.com.au
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