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Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 15:32 UK

Barkley agrees to return to Bath

Olly Barkley
Barkley scored 188 points for Gloucester in 29 games

England international centre and fly-half Olly Barkley has signed a two-year deal to return to Bath just 12 months after leaving the club for Gloucester.

The 27-year-old played 178 games for Bath in seven seasons at the Rec before opting for a move to Kingsholm.

"I know I will not be able to walk back in and be handed back my shirt straight away," said Barkley, who has 23 caps.

"But I am excited about challenging for it again and getting back playing in the style that I think suits me best."

Following his high-profile move between the West country rivals, Barkley failed to make a significant impact at Gloucester.

He did not add to his tally of England appearances and at club level he was most notably not selected to start either of the big spring matches against Ospreys in the EDF Energy Cup semi-final or Cardiff in the subsequent final.

Having come off the bench in both cup games he played the full 80 minutes in Gloucester's final two matches of the season against Worcester and Wasps, when he scored his side's only points with three penalties in total.

That took his tally in Gloucester colours to 188 points from 29 games, with one try in the home league win against Northampton.

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Barkley added: "When I first decided to leave Bath and go to Gloucester, I was looking for a new challenge. Gloucester certainly offered me the chance to do that and I am grateful to them for that opportunity.

"However, I have come to realise over this past season that Bath is really where my heart is and I feel that whilst I gave it my best shot at Gloucester, it is right, for me personally, to return to Bath.

"I am really looking forward to working with the boys and the coaches again and running out in front of the club's fantastic supporters."

Barkley's departure from an out-of-sorts Cherry and Whites squad is in stark contrast to his farewell from Bath at the end of the 2007-08 season when he helped the club claim the European Challenge Cup in tandem with Butch James in midfield.

Head coach Steve Meehan said: "Bath has moved on a little over the last 12 months and Olly will have to adjust to that.

"But I'm looking forward to seeing him return to take up that challenge and to watch his form exceed his 2007-08 season, which was arguably his finest.

"When he achieves that, the England selectors will be thinking of him again and the team and Bath's supporters will all benefit."

Barkley's return for the start of the new season will help Bath compensate for the absence of South African fly-half James, who is expected to be sidelined until Christmas with a cruciate ligament injury.



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