News in Brief
Barkley confirms return to Bath
Olly Barkley failed to settle at Gloucester and will return to Bath next season
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- Bath have confirmed that Olly Barkley will be returning to The Rec next season after signing a two-year contract.
Barkely makes the switch back from Premiership rvials Gloucester after just one season having failed to settle at Kingsholm.
"I know that I will not be able to walk back in and be handed back my shirt straightaway," admitted Barkley who offers an option at fly-half and centre. "But, I am excited about challenging for it again and getting back playing in the style that I think suits me best.
"When I first decided to leave Bath Rugby 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 Rugby 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."
- Ireland legend Karl Mullen has died at the age of 82 after a long illness.
Mullen famously led Ireland to the Five Nations Grand Slam in 1948 - a feat not repeated untl Brian O'Driscoll inspired the Irish to a clean sweep in this year's SIx Nations. The former hooker won a total of 25 caps for his country and also captained the British and Irish Lions on their tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1950.
Jack Kyle, another member of Ireland's victorious 1948 side, said, "Karl was very unassuming, and certainly did not push his weight around when he was captain. He was quietly authoritative and a superb technical player. He had a very happy life and it is sad that he has passed away."
Irish Rugby Football Union President John Lyons paid tribute saying, ''He was one of the great heroes of Irish rugby and leaves a lasting legacy for his contributions as a renowned hooker for Old Belvedere, Leinster, Ireland and the Lions and also for his input after his distinguished playing days as a committed and enthusiastic administrator of the game.''
- New Zealand's longest serving professional referee Steve Walsh has retired from his job with the New Zealand Rugby Union following an enquiry into a personal employment issue.
Walsh was reportedly involved in an incident involving alcohol at a Sanzar conference in Sydney in December. He has been unwilling to comment on the incident, which the Herald on Sunday reported involved Walsh appearing drunk at a morning session at the conference and being asked to leave.
An NZRU statement in January said he wouldn't be considered by the NZRU for the opening month of Super 14 matches. Since then, Walsh's name has been missing from the appointment list. Walsh, who refereed his first Test match in June 1998, is New Zealand's most experienced international referee and was appointed to the last two Rugby World Cup tournaments.
Recent media reports have indicated Walsh may consider aligning himself with another overseas union although his comments in an NZRU statement today suggest otherwise.
"I have enjoyed my time in refereeing immensely; however there is a significant commitment involving a lot of travel and time away from home which I found increasingly difficult dealing with," he said in a statement. "I may at some stage in the future want to return to refereeing at the top level and if I choose to do that I know what is required -- but right now I have a different focus."
- Scarlets fly-half Stephen Jones has dismissed reports of an imminent switch to Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues.
"I've got a contract for next season as well and as far as I know I'm committed to the Scarlets," the 31-year-old Wales and Lions international told Scrum V Radio. "It's a great club, I love playing for the Scarlets. I've been there for a good few years now and I've been fortunate to have a lot of positive experiences with the Scarlets...I can't wish for more."
- Munster management have confirmed New Zealander Rua Tipoki has been forced to finish his tenure with the European champions early becuase of injury.
Former North Harbour and New Zealand Maori centre Tipoki will return to New Zealand when the European season ends next month. Ongoing hamstring problems have largely left Tipoki on the sideline since since appearing in last November's tour match against the All Blacks in Limerick.
"Despite the best efforts of the medical and fitness staff I have struggled to regain full fitness," Tipoki said in a statement.
- The New Zealand Rugby Union have confirmed that returning All Blacks fly-half Luke McAlister will play rugby for his former union and Super 14 franchise, the North Harbour Rugby Union and the Blues.
He has signed for three years with North Harbour, making him available for Blues selection in next year's Super 14. "Luke is a very skilled midfielder and his return to New Zealand rugby is excellent news. I'm sure many will look forward to seeing him in a Blues jersey once again," said Blues chief executive Andy Dalton.
The NZRU last week relaxed its eligibility criteria to enable McAlister to be available for selection for the Tri-Nations series against South Africa and Australia, starting in July. He will play in the earlier home series against France and Italy in June only if current contenders were ruled out by injury.
Under NZRU rules, a player cannot be eligible for the All Blacks unless he has played in the preceding Super 14 or Air NZ Cup domestic season. But McAlister signed a contract with the NZRU in February until 2012 and has been granted an exemption.
- Ireland international Eoin Reddan is to leave Wasps after four seasons to join Heineken Cup semi-finalists Leinster.
Scrum-half Reddan moved to Wasps from Munster in 2005, helping them win the Heineken Cup, Guinness Premiership and Powergen Cup during that time. He also made his international breakthrough while at Wasps, being handed a Test debut against France in 2006 and going on to win 14 caps.
Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan said, "We are obviously sad to see the departure of Eoin Reddan, a player whose talent and fantastic attitude have played a key role in our success over the last four seasons.
"We are, and always will be, a club that supports our players' international ambitions however, and it is with our blessing and support that we see him head back to Ireland and join Leinster, pushing for honours on both the domestic and international stage."
Reddan added, "It is tough for me leaving Wasps. I've thoroughly enjoyed my last four years and I can't overstate how great a club it is."
- Bristol head coach Paul Hull has signed French No.8 Bertrand Bedes from the Cornish Pirates. Bertrand joins the West Country side after having played for Montpellier, Toulouse and Narbonne before moving to Cornwall in May 2008.
- Gloucester's Olivier Azam is free to continue playing after the citing against him was dismissed on Monday night.
Azam was cited for allegedly making contact with the eyes or eye area of Cardiff Blues' Jamie Roberts during the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final on April 18. The Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel, chaired by Christopher Quinlan, decided that the citing should be dismissed because the citing was officially submitted too late.