‘Barrel’ of laughs at Fairbrother praises
WELSH rugby has had the legendary Pontypool frontrow of Bobby Windsor, Charlie Faulkner and Graham Price and hair-bear props Adam and Duncan Jones, now there’s a new cult figure emerging in the shape of the Cornish ‘Barrel’.
While most imports opt to live in the bright lights of Cardiff, Swansea or Newport... Lloyd Fairbrother chose Blaina, high in the Gwent valleys.
Myth has it that the temperature in the village, which has produced Welsh rugby greats like David Watkins and Robert Norster, is five degrees colder than further down the valley but that locals still walk around in T-shirts whatever the weather.
The village is a far cry from the beautiful beaches of Looe in Cornwall where Fairbrother was brought up. Chalk and cheese you might say, but it suited the tight-head prop.
“They’re different breed up there, but I really enjoyed it,” he laughed.
Fairbrother was sporting a mullet hairstyle at the time and became part of the funiture in Blaina as he took his rottweiler dog Roxy for walks.
His Twitter handle is the ‘Cornish Barrel’, which is apt because he’s built like one, and he lists his likes as scrums, mullets, beer, pasties and arm-wrestling.
And, even though Fairbrother has developed a love for Welsh cakes since arriving in Wales three years ago from Exeter Chiefs, he’s missing his favourite food.
“They don’t make proper pasties and pies around here. When I go home to Cornwall to visit my mother I always bring a load of pasties back with me,” he said.
So how old is the Barrel? “Twentythree,” he replied, before looking at the Dragons press officer and chuckling: “Twenty-four, 25, 26 actually.”
Fairbrother made appearances for English Championship clubs Moseley, Cornish Pirates and Plymouth Albion on loan from Chiefs, but a conversation with his house-mate at Exeter, Wales prop Craig Mitchell, led to him signing for the Dragons.
“He was moving and we had a chat about what I wanted to do. I ended up being here and it’s been great,” said Fairbrother.
After watching Cardiff Blues fringe figure Scott Andrews come from having a single start on loan at Bath to pack down at tight-head for Wales against South Africa last weekend, the ‘Barrel’ fancies a slice of the action.
And he doesn’t need to qualify on residency, for his mother is Welsh and lived in Blaenavon, which is the other side of the mountain from Blaina and another renowned breeding ground for tough-as-teak Welsh internationals, before moving to Cornwall.
The arrival of no-nonsense former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman at the start of the season as coach of the Dragons has transformed Fairbrother.
Gone is the mullet hair-style and pirate’s beard, while he has moved to Pontypridd so his partner Ashley doesn’t have so far to travel to her work in Cardiff.
But the biggest difference, stressed Fairbrother, is the new regime at the Gwent region, explaining: “We are putting in so much groundwork.
“The fans don’t see what’s going on up here at training at Ystrad Mynach. I felt, in week one of preseason, everything shifted.
“Bernard put down where we are going. It’s a ruthless ship, but a great ship to be on if you buy into it.
“At the start of the season, I wasn’t quite where Bernard and our forwards coach Ceri Jones wanted me to be. Now, just being really fit is my main thing.”
Fans’ favourite Fairbrother has kicked on this campaign and thrived on the added responsibility of performing duties as pack leader.
“It’s easy to say you want to do that, but getting the boys behind you is quite a challenge. Who is going to be the mongrel of the pack, doing all the things people don’t see?
“Ceri wanted to get the back-row to push at the scrum and it’s my job to gee them up. It makes heck of a difference to the scrum when they do.
“I’ve grown with the squad – there’s a core group here that’s grown together. Sometimes, when you join a team, it has a group of older men you look to, but, apart from Brok Harris, Rynard Landman and Lewis Evans, we haven’t really had that at the Dragons.
“But a couple of us are getting there – we’re definitely moving towards that and it will make it easier for the next group of Dragons to come through.”
Fairbrother wears No.3 against Russian side Enisei-STM in the European Challenge Cup at Newport’s Rodney Parade tonight, with victory a necessity to keep the men of Gwent
> Lloyd Fairbrother, right, celebrates Dragons’ victory over Connacht with Thomas Davies