Aviva Premiership
Barkley agrees Racing Metro switch
ESPN Staff
September 20, 2012
Bath centre Olly Barkley kicks a penalty, Bath v Northampton, Anglo-Welsh Cup, The Rec, Bath, England, January 28, 2012
Bath playmaker Olly Barkley is reportedly set to switch the Aviva Premiership for France's Top 14 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Olly Barkley
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Teams: Bath Rugby | England

Bath fly-half Olly Barkley has put pen to paper on a shock move to Top 14 side Racing Metro 92.

The 30-year-old former England international is contracted at The Rec until the end of the season but a big-money transfer has been agreed between Bath owner Bruce Craig and Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti and he will make the move next month on what is thought to be a year and a half deal.

Barkley, who will be available for two more games at Bath before joining the Paris-based club as a medical joker, admitted in a statement that is was an offer he couldn't refuse. "Bath Rugby is in my heart and it always will be. When I no longer play the game, this will be the club I come to watch. I will be forever a Bath boy but this, for me, was simply the opportunity of a lifetime and one I just couldn't ignore," he said.

"I will miss the club always, and I wish all of my mates here the very best. I believe they are a special group with special coaches, and I hope they achieve everything they desire. I'd like to thank the club for their understanding, and also the Bath supporters who have been amazing to me in my time here."

Barkley, who is in his second spell with Bath having rejoined the club in 2009 after a troubled year at West Country rivals Gloucester, has been in excellent form this season with his goal-kicking propelling Bath to two victories in their first three games of the Premiership season. His latest stint with the club has seen him suffer a broken leg on two separate occasions, but now fully fit, he has appeared to be a key part of a squad under head coach Gary Gold.

"Barks is a great bloke and a top player," commented Gold. "I could not have been more impressed with both his attitude and his incredibly professional approach since I arrived at the Club. As a senior player, he could not have worked harder or been more welcoming to us as a group of coaches, but every now and then an offer lands on the table that a bloke just can't refuse. We are sorry to see him go, but he goes with our blessing. He will always be welcome here".

It remains to be seen if Bath will enter the transfer market themselves to fill the void left by Barkley with Kiwi Stephen Donald, Tom Heathcote and Sam Vesty the other options within the current squad.

Racing Metro are currently mid-table in the Top 14 with three victories from their opening five games. They are currently without first-choice fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez who is on Rugby Championship duty with Argentina while fellow playmakers Jonathan Wisniewski and Benjamin Dambielle are long-term injury absentees.

Bath have also confirmed the signing of former Northampton hooker Brett Sharman on a short-term loan as injury cover for Rob Webber. Northampton terminated South African Sharman's contract last month - a day after it emerged he was being investigated by Saints over an offensive tweet about double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.

Northampton, though, said Sharman's contract had been ended on medical grounds due to a knee injury that has sidelined him since January.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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