The Wasps player Alfie Barbeary is set to miss out on a place in England’s Six Nations squad next month after it emerged he will be out for at least six weeks with an ankle injury.
Barbeary, 20, made his breakthrough last season and has picked up from where he left off this term, making five starts in the Wasps back row and scoring three tries including a fine double in the European victory against Montpellier.
His form has caught the eye of Eddie Jones, who gave Barbeary a first call-up during the Autumn Nations Cup but his hopes of being picked for England’s initial Six Nations squad have been hit by the injury sustained during the win against Sale on Sunday. If he requires surgery Barbeary could potentially be out of action for the entire Six Nations.
“Alfie has a syndesmosis injury,” said the Wasps director of rugby, Lee Blackett, whose side face Exeter on Saturday in a repeat of October’s Premiership final. “Whenever you have that injury it’s not the greatest but it’s not an out-and-out disaster. It’s hard to know as there are still question marks here as to whether he needs surgery. If he does it’ll be longer [than six to eight weeks], but if he doesn’t that’s probably around the right point.
“Like any player he’ll be frustrated. I’ve been really pleased with Alfie recently – he’s got better and better and had big impacts on the game. I’m disappointed for Alfie but we’ve got to make sure, and I spoke to him on this this morning, that he’s a better player when he comes back. We’ll work really hard behind the scenes, however long he’s out for, we’ll have to make sure he comes back better than when he left us.”
Meanwhile the Newcastle head coach, Dave Walder, believes ring-fencing the Premiership would ease the financial pressure heaped on clubs in the midst of the pandemic. The Falcons’ recently cancelled match against Leicester also shone a light on how the pandemic could affect the battle to avoid relegation with the Tigers awarded two points as well as Newcastle four.
“My position is that I would support ring-fencing for a period of time to let clubs get their finances in order,” said Walder. “There was talk about clubs being in financial trouble and it shows how financially fragile the sport is and that is going to carry on until we get out the other side of this.”
Northampton say they will be able to field a team at London Irish on Sunday despite one player testing positive for Covid-19 this week and two close contacts having to self-isolate.
“It was our first positive test for a while and it has been traced back to a sibling of one of the boys,” said the Northampton director of rugby, Chris Boyd. “We have done track and trace and there were two close contacts. It does not put us in jeopardy of not being able to put a team on the paddock on Sunday.”
Asked whether a two-week break in January would be needed given the sharp increase in the number of positive tests throughout the country, Boyd said: “It would be an overreaction after one weekend [when two Premiership matches were cancelled]. If you have two more this week and more the next, you might then ask how you can make it work.
“This has been a very difficult year for the club financially, emotionally and from a team point of view, but Saints losing a few games on the trot pales into insignificance given what has been going on in the world with the pandemic.”