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Cocoa butter, hair dryers, nail filing and John Barclay's bush: Some of rugby's extreme grooming habits

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

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Scotland back row Ryan Wilson and ex-England captain Dylan Hartley have spilt the beans on some of the more extreme grooming habits they encountered during their lengthy careers in rugby, including what John Barclay used to get up in hotel rooms while on international duty.


Wilson, the Glasgow skipper, was involved with Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad as recently as last year’s World Cup in Japan while Hartley, the 97-cap England hooker, enjoyed a 14-season club career at Northampton on top of his decade playing internationally. 

Appearing as co-hosts on the latest episode of RugbyPass Offload, the pair were asked to talk about grooming and players whose habits have lingered on the mind for dubious reasons.  

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Dylan Hartley and Ryan Wilson co-host the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Dylan Hartley and Ryan Wilson co-host the latest RugbyPass Offload

Hartley had first dibs on the subject and he quickly rattled off a list of names that stood out for him. “Every team has got vanity, what you call a Test week kind of hair cut or a TV game hair cut. Everyone gets kind of sharpened up,” he explained. 

“For me, Luther Burrell, cocoa-buttered within an inch of his life, preened, silky smooth. Stephen Meyler, I’m talking hair dryer in the kit bag, making sure his lid was done after a game. Dave Attwood sat cross-legged filing his nails for a Test match. Strange. I don’t know if that was a calming effect but a big man in the corner just grinding away…”

Reposing to Hartley, Wilson outed the hotel room grooming habits of Barclay, the now-retired Scotland back row. “You never want to be that guy who goes into the shower and has a full-on bush,” he began. “I’ll say one thing, me and John Barclay used to room together a lot, all the time.


“It was almost like a ritual of when we met up together we’d have a check of each other’s downstairs nether regions just to see how we are going and it would be like a ritual of the grooming session. 

“John Barclay, over his time, has clogged up many a sink in hotel rooms. It’s more the fact it is easier doing it in a hotel because you don’t clog up your own sink back at home. Yeah, there have been some pretty hideous sights left… he would go in and have a good clean-up session when we were in hotels because he didn’t want to clog up his own sink.” 


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