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'He has got such X-factor... when he has a seven out of ten he is not happy with that'

By Liam Heagney
Could a fit-again Alfie Barbeary be a bolter for a Lions jersey? (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Wasps boss Lee Blackett has described his excitement that Alfie Barbeary, the 20-year-old described in some quarters as England’s best young prospect, is back in harness as the 2020/21 season steps up in pace with this Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 match versus Clermont. 

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The Coventry-based club have been enduring a difficult run of results in the Gallagher Premiership, winning just two of their last nine matches and looking increasingly likely to fall short of repeating last season’s progress to the Twickenham final of the tournament.  

However, they have seen a number of players marked absent for many of those losses become available in recent weeks, among them the youthful Barbeary who was voted the Premiership player of the month for December before suffering a syndesmosis ankle injury that required surgery. 

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Barbeary, who began December by being called into Eddie Jones’ England squad the week of the Autumn Nations Cup final, stepped off the bench to significantly help Wasps during the come-from-behind win at Newcastle on March 19 and he made his first start in 13 weeks last Saturday at home to Sale. 

The result – another Wasps loss – wasn’t kind and Blackett is hoping that Barbeary, who has scored five tries in eleven Premiership career appearances, can now take his frustrations out on French side Clermont when they visit the Ricoh.

“I thought he was really, really good,” said Blackett about how Barbeary fared in his 34-minute comeback at Kingston Park as a sub for Sione Vailanu. “When he came on against Newcastle I thought he was almost game-changing for us. He had a really good game. 

“Probably wasn’t as busy as he would like to have been at the weekend against Sale but he is showing signs in training. One thing with Alfie, the difference you need to see in games is where he really comes alive, that competitive edge he has gets out there. He was pretty frustrated last week. 

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“He is used to starring every single week so when he has a seven out of ten he is not happy with that. Alfie wants to be running through people, smashing people. That is what he prides himself on and he is getting back. I was really, really pleased with him against Newcastle. He was a game-changer for us and he was one of the people who got us a result up there. So I have been pretty pleased with how he has come back.”

Barbeary, who grew up idolising Manu Tuilagi, came through the ranks as a hooker, representing England at U20s. However, his involvement with Wasps has been in the back row and it is in that sector where Blackett believes the forward will spend the next while developing rather than in the front row.  

“I think at this moment in time we feel he is not ready there. The problem is if a couple of parts of his game are off at hooker he is probably not going to be on the field whereas as you have seen at this moment of time he has got such X-factor we just want him on the field playing for us and he is desperate. 

“He is someone who probably doesn’t enjoy training that much but he loves being on the rugby field, he just wants to play rugby. He just wants to get out there and he is absolutely desperate to be out there so, at this moment of time, he is working on all the other stuff, we’re working pretty hard with him on the other stuff but at the moment for selection for Wasps we are thinking of him as a back row.”

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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