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“Alfie makes the hard yards”-Johann van Graan lauds impact of Alfie Barbeary

Bath Rugby’s Head of Rugby Johann van Graan has lauded the impact Alfie Barbeary has made since his switch to the Rec last season. 

The former Wasp joined van Graan’s revolution in the South West last year, and has quickly become one of the best number eight’s in the Premiership.

Speaking to the media today, van Graan said: “He’s somebody that caught my eye when I was still coaching Munster. He was a young kid and Wasps played against Toulouse at Coventry when he carried and poached balls and I thought ‘who’s this guy?’.”

Barbeary has become known for his barnstorming ball carrying. He has made more gain line carries than anyone at the club, with 54 to his name this season, and he is often Bath’s main ball carrier.

This has earned him high praise from boss van Graan, and it’s led to comparison’s with some of the great number eights.

“From a ball carrier point of view, Alfie stood out to me. He’s a guy that wants the ball in his hands, and I think one of the biggest compliments I can give Alfie in terms of wanting the ball in his hands, Duane Vermeulen is somebody that I’ve coached that wants the ball in his hands and CJ Stander, if you think of the hard yards that someone like CJ Stander made in big test matches, big games for Munster, Alfie makes the hard yards.

He added: “He’s the guy that takes the first pass of nine and there’s defensive wall. You’ve got to have something inside yourself to want to run at it. It’s easy to do it once, but it’s not that easy to do it 10 or 15 times. Then he’s got this incredible ability to shake off defenders.

Johann van Graan on Alfie Barbeary’s all round game

Credit: IMAGO

It’s not just his ball carrying where van Graan is feeling the impacts of the England A international. Barbeary has been a constant threat in and around the breakdown this season. In their victory against Exeter, he made two crucial turnovers; and van Graan was keen to highlight Barbeary’s defensive work.

“There’s also the other side of the ball. He’s made some very big poaches for us in the last few weeks. On both sides of the ball, he’s so valuable and he’s an important player for us.

Whilst there is so much hype around Alfie Barbeary, he has struggled with injuries in his time at the Rec. He arrived at the club with a hamstring injury, and also picked up a serious knee injury on his debut. He returned this season though, and van Graan was quick to praise the medical staff at the club for getting him back up and running.

“I think all credit to our medical and performance team and our nutrition team that’s actually kept him on the pitch,” he said.

He came here with a lot of injuries, he had that horrific knee injury against Leicester. Ever since then he’s taken a few big knocks on that knee but he just keeps coming.”