‘Bar­rel’ of laughs at Fair­brother praises

Western Mail - - SPORT - Andy How­ell Rugby cor­re­spon­dent andy.how­ell@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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