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Young Guns: Wasps and England U18 sensation Alfie Barbeary

Almost a fortnight after making his try-scoring debut for England U20s against Scotland, hooker Alfie Barbeary is still pinching himself – as well he might, given he is a converted centre who still turns out in the position for Bloxham School, Banbury.

No matter, the 18-year-old is just happy to have made an impact at that level as he finds his way in senior rugby after a career-changing decision to switch positions four years ago.

Barbeary explained: “I joined the Wasps academy when I was 14 when it was still based in Ealing and Matt Davies, our then-head of academy, asked what position I preferred? I said I was a centre or back rower but he replied: ‘No you’re not, you’re a hooker now!’

“I’d always played centre for my school and Banbury Rugby Club, but since that day I’ve played hooker with Wasps. Although it’s a bit different, it’s something I’ve adjusted to.

“It’s turned out to be the right choice because at just over 6ft 1in and with my running and passing skills, I’ve adapted pretty well. When I looked around, Schalk Brits was someone who was a very good role model and I’ve tried to mirror him as much as I can.”

Barbeary added: “Of the guys in this country, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George are evolving the way hookers play the game. Like Brits, they’ve brought new life to the position and although physicality is still huge, the game’s becoming more skill-based.

“Wasps have a good bunch of mobile hookers in Tommy Taylor, Tom Cruse and Ashley Johnson and seeing how they play as well, they can definitely help support my development. They’re all great, modern day hookers and people I can learn a lot from.”

Having captained England at U18s level last year, making the U20s was his next big goal and he achieved that in some style last week at Franklin’s Gardens, where Barbeary emerged from the bench as a 68th minute replacement, bagging a try in a 45-7 win.

He explained: “It was an amazing feeling and something I’d really been looking forward to. I’d been a travelling reserve in Wales a few weeks earlier and was hoping to get some game time, so it was a relief to get on, but even lovelier to cross the whitewash.

“It was a great crowd at Northampton and with it not being too far from Banbury, a lot of my family and mates were there. The pitch was good, it was incredible really and it was great to make my parents proud as they’re fantastic icons who’ve supported me.”

Whilst not wishing to get ahead of himself, Barbeary now has his sights on the U20s World Cup.

He added: “That would be incredible and it’s a goal I’ve set myself for a very long time. I’ll have one more year after this so if I don’t make it this summer, then I’ll throw myself into next season wholeheartedly with Wasps and try to get there then.”

NEALE HARVEY / Photo: Getty Images

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