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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Barkley fearful of Ashton's exit
By Matt Majendie

Brian Ashton
Ashton has helped turn around Bath's fortunes this season
Bath fly-half Olly Barkley says Brian Ashton's potential switch to the England camp would be a monumental loss to the resurgent Premiership club.

Ashton took over as Bath coach at the turn of the year but has since been tipped for a part in Andy Robinson's international coaching set-up.

Barkley told BBC Sport: "From a selfish point of view, I want him to stay as I've learned so much from him.

"It would be a massive blow, but Bath's loss would be England's gain."

Bath have enjoyed a turnaround in fortunes since Ashton took over, avoiding relegation and securing in a Heineken Cup semi-final against Biarritz.

But the revival has not gone unnoticed at Rugby Football Union headquarters, especially in the wake of England's disappointing Six Nations campaign.

Bath director of rugby Jack Rowell appeared to give his blessing to the RFU to recruit Ashton earlier this week.

And Barkley added: "I can understand why he might want to leave. Every coach would want to work at the highest level and, obviously, that's England and people come and go - that's the nature of professional sport.

Everyone's thriving on it and it's given the squad a fresh spring in their step
Olly Barkley on life under Brian Ashton at Bath

"But if he opted to stay I believe he could make us the Premiership force we once were."

Ashton has been credited with bringing a more attacking style to Bath's game, although Barkley admitted some of his techniques were "wacky".

"He does have odd ideas but that actually makes it a joy to work under him," he said. "It makes coaching really fun.

"He does things that others don't try - whether that be running from deep or just trying something different. When you play at 10 or 12, like me, and you're running the game, it's a really exciting time working with Brian.

"Everyone's thriving on it and it's given the squad a fresh spring in their step."

Barkley has only recently returned to action after a lay-off with a thumb injury and is set to start in France at the weekend.

Biarritz, meanwhile, have enjoyed a superb record at home and, in the last two seasons, have accounted for the European exits of Wasps, Leicester, Saracens and Sale.

Barkley billed the game "as Bath's biggest for eight years" and insisted victory would "mean everything to the players and everything to the city".

Looking back at the club's quarter-final win at Welford Road, he said: "We had to play Leicester away from home and came away with the win.

"I'm not saying we'll suddenly do the same here but we're confident of doing it. And for one, Biarritz certainly don't have a divine right to win."


SEE ALSO
Ashton tipped for England switch
18 Apr 06 |  Rugby Union
Barkley keen to tour with England
02 Apr 06 |  Internationals
Ashton's legacy
01 Nov 05 |  English


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