Meet one of the breakthrough stars of 2020 who has been called up by England

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Wasps hooker/back-row Alfie Barbeary

Date of birth 5 October 2000 Born Banbury, Oxon Position Hooker/back-row Club Wasps Country England

When did you first play rugby? 

I was eight, at Banbury rugby club. My mum’s side of the family are very much into rugby but my dad was more of a footballer, so from a young age I was hoping to be the next Ronaldo!

Then my older brother started playing rugby with a family friend and I was a bit jealous, so I went as well. I loved it and it went from there.

Any childhood heroes other than Ronaldo? 

I looked up to people like Ma’a Nonu and (Mathieu) Bastareaud.

So you were a centre… 

Yes. I started there at U10s and have played there most of my life. When I went to my first Wasps session at U15s, the head of the academy, Matt Davies, asked what position I was and I said, “Back-row/centre.” He said, “You’re a hooker!” So I’d play hooker for Wasps but at school I’d play centre.

I played through the age grades with England and unfortunately they didn’t see me as a centre either!

I’m happy to play anywhere and have played back-row too. I’ve got used to the front row now and I’m starting to enjoy it more and more. It’s how I can make it suit me really.

What are your strengths? 

My ball-carries are my strongest point. Then my kick-pass-run options when I have the ball and my decision-making with that.

Did you expect to have such a big impact last season? 

It’s been a strange one. I tore my quad and hamstring, which wasn’t the start I wanted to my first professional season. I got back just before Christmas for an A League game but tore my hamstring again, then the week I was due back was lockdown!

Coming back after lockdown, I got told I’d been promoted to the first team and I was lucky enough to make my debut and play more games. It’s been surreal.

What are your goals for this season? 

I want to be a more regular first-team player for Wasps and earn my stripes there. I’m happy to play anywhere but my end goal is to be the No 1 hooker.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

Mark Horrocks, my first coach at Banbury, was very influential. Then as I got older, Peter Walton and John Fletcher, who gave me confidence to play how I want to play. How it shouldn’t be unusual for a forward to kick it or offload.

RW Verdict: Barbeary marked his first Premiership start with a hat-trick against Leicester – when playing out of position at blindside! His long-term future is at hooker and he has the rounded skill-set we often see from Kiwi front-rowers. England coach Eddie Jones clearly likes what he sees having called up Barbeary ahead of the final Autumn Nations Cup match against France.

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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