The 19 year old hooker/flanker hit the headlines last night, and for all the right reasons. However, lets look into the making of the man and whether Alfie Barbeary has what it takes to fulfil the potential often spoke about.
What was witnessed on Wednesday night was definitely an impressive performance from a dominant and clinical Wasps side. A thumping of Leicester that Geordan Murphy described as being one of the worst defeats of his Leicester career. However, an exciting sub plot to this result is Alfie Barbeary.
Background of Alfie Barbeary
There has been lots of talk of the young forward. Hailing from Oxfordshire and crediting his rugby tutelage to Banbury RFC and Bloxham School where he won the NatWest schools plate in 2019, the England U20 Hooker has been pinpointed as a future star for some years now. His performances for the national junior side in the Junior World Cup has often resulted in glowing praise. Often being described as dominant and the full package in terms of what the modern hooker is.
Growing up idolising the emergence of a young Manu Tuilagi, and aspiring to be a centre, it goes some way to explain Barbeary’s style of play. Against the Tigers there were glimpses of skill that you would expect from a centre, rather than a hooker. Throwing dummy passes and running clever support lines are the sorts of things a young Tuilagi was an exponent of.
Barbeary though has been transformed into a modern day forward. A young player who has eyes set on the number two shirt for England, yet was able to make his first start in the premiership on the flanks. So, not only was the 19 year old making his first start in the competition, he was playing out of position. The fact that he didn’t look out of place is testament for a player who seems ready made for success in rugby.
Seeing red for England U20s
Although, this could be seen as a redemption story, the stories of the exciting prospect for England were coming out during the build up to the 2019 U20 World Cup. However, in the first match in the tournament Barbeary wasn’t able to show the world what he had in store. A straight red card in the 66th minute just minutes after being subbed on. Crucially, this was when the game was on the line. Arguably, he had cost the England side a victory in the first game of the tournament. A five week ban put an end to his tournament.
This flash of red may have been a result of being pumped up for his first chance to show his talent to the world, but it certainly put a hold on the Barbeary reputation increase. What we saw on Wednesday was what Barbeary would have wanted to show on that fateful night instead. A hat trick within 16 minutes certainly will bring back a much more exciting view of the Wasps youngster.
What have we seen so far
Barbeary’s game time for the Wasps has been kept minimal. With only a handful of appearances for the A League outfit and one other appearance for the senior side off the bench, the Wasps management clearly are mindful of how they expose the young talent to the sport and manage his game-time carefully. The decision to start on the flanks rather than at hooker was testament to this. Shielding him from the pressures of throwing the line out and the scrums. Allowing Barbeary to do what he does best around the pitch. His explosion onto the scene though wouldn’t have come as a massive surprise to many.
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) September 9, 2020
How many 19 year olds score a hat trick on their first start? This appears to be the start of a career worth being excited about. The name Barbeary will be featuring in an England squad sooner rather than later. If he continues to get gametime in the Premiership and keeps scoring tries. Eddie Jones will struggle to ignore him. His mixture of rugby IQ, power, pace and skill are rare. The rise of Tom Curry is further evidence of how the England production line is working, and I would expect a similar upward trajectory in reputation and performances. Curry is the blueprint for Barbeary to follow if he wants to make the same impact as his Sale counterpart.
Alfie Barbeary is a name to remember. Any Wasps and England fans should watch his development with excitement as they have a special forward in their hands.
A rival ready in waiting
One thing to watch in the future of international rugby is what promises to be a feisty competition with New Zealand’s equally exciting young hooker Ausafo Aumua. Admittedly, Aumua is a few years ahead in terms of experience and development. His impact in New Zealand rugby is the same to expect from Barbeary in the northern hemisphere. That competition between the two promises to be an excellent battle for the next decade between two of the sports strongest nations.
However, is Barbeary the real deal? Or will he become another England wonderkid that doesn’t fulfil the potential that people in the game are expecting.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images