Barkley reveals reasons for exit
September 29, 2012
Olly Barkley will play his final game for Bath against Sale © PA Photos
Bath fly-half Olly Barkley hopes to emulate fellow channel hoppers Jonny Wilkinson and Iain Balshaw in playing some of his best rugby when he moves to Racing Metro at the end of this month.
The former England fly-half and centre will play his final game for Bath against Sale on Saturday before moving to the French Top 14. He is contracted at the Rec until the end of the season but agreed to move to Paris as a 'medical joker' for the French club.
The 30-year-old has harboured a desire to play in France ever since they hosted the 2007 World Cup and when the opportunity presented itself after Racing suffered a series of injuries, he took it. Barkley insists the chance to play in France when he is still at the top of his game, rather than any at disillusionment at Bath, was his major reason for following the likes of Wilkinson and Balshaw across the channel.
"As a rugby player you have a certain value, a value that diminishes year on year. Once you reach your thirties - I'll be 31 in November - that process starts speeding up," he told the Independent. "While playing in the French Top 14 championship had been an ambition of mine for a while, I wouldn't have wanted to go over there and not perform well.
"If I was going to move there, I wanted to do it the way Jonny Wilkinson and Iain Balshaw have done it. They went when they were still capable of developing as players, of adding new skills and doing things differently to the way they did them in England. So when I thought it through, this seemed the right time to try it out."
Barkley added: "Racing were up the creek without a paddle. Pretty quickly, they were in touch with my agent and before I knew it the possibility of a move was there in front of me.
"I wasn't keen at first, to be honest with you: I was in the last year of my contract with Bath and I wanted to see it out. But after speaking to friends and family - and I include a good few of my clubmates in that description - I started looking at it in a different way. The chance to play in Paris, with a set-up as good as Racing Metro's? It might not come my way again. Not at my age."
Barkley, who won 23 caps for England, will make his final Premiership appearance after 160 games in the top flight against Sale on Saturday. He says it will be a strange feeling to make his last appearance for the club that he joined in 2001 and only had a season away from with Gloucester in 2008. But he is confident he leaves it in good shape with new head coach Gary Gold at the helm.
"It's been a weird couple of weeks, and this game will feel even weirder," he said.
"Right from the start, there was a good vibe around the place. I thought to myself: 'Gary knows what he's doing. Once we take on the new ideas and bed everything down, we might find ourselves going somewhere'."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter