The 'little concern' Wasps have about England prospect Barbeary
Wasps have backed their uncapped back-rower Alfie Barbeary for an England Guinness Six Nations call-up but Lee Blackett, the Gallagher Premiership club’s boss, has also revealed the one “little concern” he has about the fast-rising 21-year-old star. It was October 2018 when the Test level prospect made his professional debut, scoring on his Premiership Cup debut at Gloucester as a teenager.
At the time, Barbeary was viewed as a promising hooker but he has since come of age in the Wasps back row where he has scored three tries in six recent appearances this winter having finally shaken off syndesmosis and hamstring issues.
Barbeary wouldn’t be the first young Wasps back-rower to earn rave reviews at this time of the year. Only last January, Jack Willis was making headlines and he forced his way into the Six Nations reckoning with England only to have that opportunity cruelly ruined by the serious knee injury sustained just minutes after scoring at Twickenham against Italy.
Wasps boss Blackett is a believer that age should never be a barrier to selection and he is backing Barbeary to get a look-in next Tuesday when Eddie Jones announces his England squad for the upcoming 2022 Six Nations.
However, given the rising star’s frustrations with soft tissue injuries, Blackett is conscious of the need to keep a careful eye on him to ensure he doesn’t suffer any similar injury setbacks after a winter where he has come into his own with a rich vein of form he will now look to continue with this Saturday versus European champions Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup.
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“I’d liked to think so,” said Blackett when asked if he reckoned Barbeary was set to become the latest youngster from Wasps to merit England squad selection. “I’d like to think there is still more in Alfie. We are going to have to see his consistency now playing week in week out but I think everyone is taking note. We know the potential he has got and he is only going to get better the more he plays. I hope so. I hope there is a few Wasps players in that (England) squad.”
The Wasps boss added that no one should have any concerns that Barbeary is only a 21-year-old Premiership rookie. “I am always of the opinion that it doesn’t matter their age, if they are good enough they are good enough!
“We just have to make sure we manage his load. That is my concern with this, that he is managed. We want to get him out there as much as we can, and that would be my little concern around this, but with what he gives in a game, he comes up with big moments consistently. You saw that with the turnover at the backend of the game (against Leicester last Sunday), it was as good a penalty I have had at Wasps as a coach.”
That penalty-winning Barbeary intervention helped Wasps seal their 16-13 win over the previously unbeaten Leicester and it sparked a massive outpouring of emotion on the pitch in Coventry. “It is my favourite (Barbeary moment) because is it’s just the reaction of the players.
“There’s nothing else in it… if you ever see the clip just look at the emotion of the players. That is why it goes down as one of my favourites if not the favourite. It’s just the emotion of the players that I liked.”
Barbeary will line out at blindside flanker this weekend versus Toulouse in a Wasps XV showing five changes from last Sunday, Paolo Odogwu, Jacob Umaga, James Gaskell, Biyi Alo and Rodrigo Martinez all coming into the side. Having recovered from an ACL injury, outside centre Odogwu is featuring for the first time since May 2021.
WASPS (vs Toulouse, Saturday)
15 Jacob Umaga; 14 Ali Crossdale, 13. Paolo Odogwu, 12. Jimmy Gopperth, 11. Josh Bassett; 10. Charlie Atkinson, 9. Sam Wolstenholme; 1. Rodrigo Martinez, 2. Tom Cruse, 3. Biyi Alo, 4. Tim Cardall, 5. James Gaskell, 6. Alfie Barbeary, 7. Brad Shields, 8. Tom Willis. Reps: 16. Dan Frost, 17. Zac Nearchou, 18. Pieter Scholtz, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Thomas Young, 21. Will Porter, 22. Rob Miller, 23. Ryan Mills.
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