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The other Alfie Barbeary position that ended at Wasps

By Ian Cameron
A 16-year-old Alfie Barbeary of Wasps U18 charges forward in 2017 (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

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Rising star of English rugby Alfie Barbeary’s ability to play multiple positions doesn’t just extend to the forward pack.

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The Wasps star was named in Eddie Jones’ 36-man Guinness Six Nations side, a selection that surprised no one following his rare form in both the Gallagher Premiership and Champions Cup.

Known for his explosive ball carrying and deft hand skills, the Oxfordshire-born forward has been an irresistible force of late, skittling defenders and scoring tries, seemingly at will.

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Rob Kearney and Alfie Barbeary – A Lion and a Wasp | RugbyPass Offload | Ep 17
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Rob Kearney and Alfie Barbeary – A Lion and a Wasp | RugbyPass Offload | Ep 17

His now full-time move to the back row from hooker is credited with his accelerating his meteoric rise through the ranks, even if the 21-year-old had been earmarked for greatness as far back as his England U18s days.

At the end of last season, Barbeary spoke with Wasps coach Lee Blackett and Eddie Jones, and a discussion was had about this hybrid player’s future position.

“He’ll be a back-rower,” Blackett said back in November. “We spoke at the end of last season, myself Eddie Jones and him. We were all involved in the discussion and Alfie wants to play back-row. His appetite and his passion is to be there, so he’ll be a number eight.”

Yet it might not have always been thus. At 6’1 and 116kg, he has the stereotypical build of a front-rower, but he played the majority of his schools’ rugby at Bloxham School as a centre.

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“From U10s to about U18s when I played schools, I was a 12,”  Barbeary told The RugbyPass Offload podcast. “It was only when going to Wasps academy, they went ‘what position are you?’

“I said centre slash back row and he [the academy coach] goes ‘No you’re not. You’re a hooker’.

“I knew Wasps were quite keen to keep me as a back row. I’d been going well there.

“I hadn’t played much as rower. I was a hooker that hadn’t played much men’s rugby as a hooker. I sort of had one game at Nottingham at 18 on loan, for about half an hour at hooker.

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“I hadn’t really played hooker at all so, I thought ‘I’m doing alright at back row. I really enjoy it.’ So I thought I’d stick there so that’s really where the decision came from.

“Towards the back end of last season, he told me I’ve got to make a decision in terms of where you’re going to play. I was bouncing between positions, seeing which one I was going to choose. I was trying to keep the best of both worlds, trying to keep everyone happy.

“He [Eddie Jones] said ‘you’ve got to make a decision. Just let me know’. That was the same at Wasps because they needed to do their recruitment for the next season. Both parties were saying ‘let us know what position you’re going to be’ and that was it.

“I spoke to a few people that knew me best and we started back row.”

Now called up to England as a loose forward, Barbeary has been told to come into camp with an open mind.

“I haven’t really spoken to Eddie recently. I’ve spoken to a few other coaches and they’ve told be to come in with an open mind and be ready to be told what to do.”

Somehow, that doesn’t look like being a problem.

 

 

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