Rotherham Titans coach Mark Jones has been quick to praise the quality of the new signings he inherited – none more so than Joe Barker.
Jones has passed the ten game mark in charge of the Titans after taking over from Lee Blackett and he has been thoroughly impressed with centre Barker.
The 24-year-old jumped up two levels after switching from Hull Ionians so has been forced to adapt quickly to the demands of being a full time professional in the Championship.
“Joe’s a good lad, very skilful and fits in well,” Jones said. “I’ve enjoyed working with him.
“He tackles strongly and organises the defence in the backs well as he did against Leinster A last Saturday.”
Given Barker’s family background it is no surprise he has been able to make a solid impression at the Titans. His father Trevor is director of sport at QUEGS Wakefield, one of the top rugby schools in the north.
“The big differences between the league I was playing in and the Championship are the speed of the game, the skills level and the physicality,” Barker said.
“Week in, week out you know there’s never going to be a comfortable game and you also need a proper recovery time between matches.
“Preparation is also so important. When I was in National Two, you just turned up and played.
“But in the Championship and at Rotherham, we are fully prepared, having looked and analysed videos, so the coaching staff give us the right amount of detail.
“Coming to Rotherham has revived my professional career because I did play in the Championship for Leeds.
“So when Lee Blackett rang before he left and said Rotherham needed another centre, I thought I’d give it a go.
“I’m really loving it here, Rotherham is a professional club with an amateur feel. The fans are brilliant, the coach has vast international experience and we have a great chance of achieving a place in the play-offs again.
“The Championship is a tough league to get out of. This year the teams are a lot closer to each other in terms of standard and it’s much more professional than when I first played in it. The league gets better every year.”
On some days off, Barker goes back to his old school and helps to coach the U15s at QUEGS.
Once his rugby career is over, he will resume teacher training and clearly has potential as a coach with his QUEGS side having won the national title last year.
But before then, his ambition is straight-forward: “Just to keep playing rugby for Rotherham, enjoy each week as it comes and, as there are a lot of games left this season, work on the fine details which will improve us as a side.”