Mar 02, 2015
In Focus: Richard Barrington
In the second of our weekly ‘in focus’ feature, we put prop forward Richard Barrington under the spotlight.
On Saturday, Barrington trotted out for his 53rd Saracens appearance. No mean feat for a player who three years ago was warming the benches of clubs such as Mosely, Plymouth Albion and Doncaster during his time with Channel Islanders, Jersey RFC.
Since his permanent arrival for Saracens in the summer of 2013, Barrington’s (or Bazza as he is known around the cclub) rise is testament to the club’s policy of giving players from the lower leagues a chance to excel and improve. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Mouritz Botha (now of the Natal Sharks), Petrus du Plessis, Tim Streather, Duncan Taylor and Chris Wyles, Barrington is another player who has made the step up from the Championship to become a regular for the club.
Barrington is man who loves the coalface of the scrum. Built like a bull, he weighs in just under 20 stone and has added an extra dimension to his game with his ball carrying prowess now coming to the fore. His try in Saracens’ 14-10 defeat to Sale Sharks was his third of the season, but make no mistake about it – Bazza loves the scrum the most!
“I enjoy the scrum, and the competition against other props,” said Barrington. “Scrummaging can be quite unforgiving. One week you can be pretty dominant and the next, you can be penalised all day. It’s and eight man effort. It’s having the mind-set of doing your job at that given time against your opposite number. Make no mistake about it, the success of a scrum is an eight man job, but at prop your battle against your opposite number is important and every scrum you have to do your job for the team.
“When you do get penalised it hurts. I do take it personally and I make sure that come the next scrum I do everything in power to turn that decision around. I think most front-rowers are cut from the same cloth in that regard.”
Barrington has been involved heavily in Saracens 2014/15 season so far. With Mako Vunipola sidelined for the opening months of the season, the emphasis fell on Barrington and Welshman Rhys Gill as the clubs only recognised senior looseheads.
Dovetailing with Welshman Gill in the number one and 17 shirts, Barrington says he has enjoyed shouldering the extra responsibility in this campaign.
“Personally, I’m pretty happy with how my season has gone so far,” said Barrington. “There have been some strong performances, I was a bit rusty at the start but I feel I’m improving game-on-game. I know this sounds cliché, but I’m just taking each game and each challenge on a game on game basis. I’m not looking too far ahead. I’ve had a lot of game time so far this season, and I feel I can contribute more and more, especially in the closing stages of the season.
“It wasn’t too long ago I was benching for Jersey in the Championship, and I’ve picked up a lot from the guys at the club. As front rowers we tend to pick a lot up from each other in ‘scrum club’ during the week. It’s where we get together and talk all things scrummaging. We are quite a tight knit bunch within the squad, and we get on pretty well off the pitch as well.
“We have a mass of experience when it comes to scrummaging. Alex Sanderson and Paul Gustard are brilliant coaches and we have some really experienced guys who know what there on about at the scrum, guys like Rhys Gill, Juan Figallo and Petrus du Plessis in particular. We have all the knowledge at our disposal and it’s all about adapting to new interpretations and we’ve been putting in some quality work recently”.
Barrington’s journey to the Premiership has been somewhat unconventional. Growing up in the West Country, the promising prop joined the much famed Hartpury College, traditionally a breeding ground of talent for clubs such as Gloucester and Bath. Despite some time playing for the Cherry and Whites developmental sides Barrington ended up in Jersey.
“It’s been a crazy two years, I really do have to pinch myself sometimes. If someone had told me when I was fresh out of university and just starting out with Jersey that I’d have played in two major finals, I’d have thought they had been drinking, because I just wouldn’t have believed it!
“I played throughout my time at school, I was originally a back-row forward,” he said. “I went to Hartpury when I was 16 years-old, and played for the college team there for two years and again, it was just about me enjoying my rugby.
“Whilst I was there I began playing Saturday rugby for the local team Hartpury RFC - we progressed through the leagues pretty quickly as we had a pretty strong team. First it was South-West 2, then up to South-West 1, then up to the National League’s.
“We had a great side - Wales and Lions winger Adam Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues) was playing, Dave Lewis the Exeter Chiefs scrum-half played, we had Henry Trinder, Johnny May and Tom Savage (all Gloucester) and Andries Pretorius (recently Cardiff Blues) at No.8, and it was team full of superstars really. It was a great apprenticeship for me, and it was good fun. I had a few games for Gloucester in the A League, but I didn’t work out.
“I then signed for Jersey for the year, and started to ply my trade in the Championship. It was a great experience for me both off and off the field. Jersey is a great place; it’s fantastic to be there in the summer.
“The rugby Jersey had to play during my time there helped me progress as well I think. They were involved in a relegation battle so we concentrated on the set piece a lot. We looked to get penalties at the scrum so a lot of emphasis was put on people like me, and looking back I think playing to that game plan brought on my scrummaging a hell of a lot.
“Luckily I’ve had some great mentors. At Hartpury I had the old Welsh warhorse Darren Morris helping me, so I picked up a hell of a lot off him – I also trained with Ben Evans, another former Welsh player, he also taught me a lot. Steve Bowden at Jersey is a great forwards coach as well so I have been very lucky that in my career I’ve had some extremely experienced guys guiding me in the right direction, and we’re blessed with some of the best in the business here at Saracens.
“I came over for an LV=Cup game in the 2012/13 season. It was a bolt out of the blue at the time, I remember being called into the coach’s office at Jersey, he told me I was to be sent out on loan and my immediate reaction was, where? I thought it would down the leagues or another Championship club, but when he told me it was Saracens I was very surprised.
“When I came off the bench I just wanted to give my all, and when I went back to Jersey I was hoping that I’s have the chance to come back and prove myself at this level.
“I was very excited when I heard the news I’d be coming back to Sarries, I’ve not looked back since. I’m loving it here. Al Sanderson and Paul Gustard have helped me, as have all the players around me. I’m in a very privileged position at the club, I am surrounded by internationals, so to get to train with that calibre of player week-in-week-out has been a real help for me.”
On Saracens run-in, Barrington added: “We’re heading into a very crucial part of the season. We’re very well placed in the Aviva Premiership, in the European Champions Cup and we’ve got a massive home LV=Cup semi-final against Saints in a few weeks. All of the squad will be playing their part, we’ll have the international lads back soon and a few more guys coming back from injury as well.
"We had a very disappointing result against Sale the other weekend, but we are pretty good at bouncing back from set-backs and the win against Newcastle Falcons was very important for the group. We can take a lot from the game and build on some real positives heading into a big game away to Wasps.”