England Banking on Boot of Barkley to Banish Black Clouds

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER JACKSON

ENGLAND'S quest for RBS Six Nations redemption at Twickenham today rests in the hands of a novice Cornishman who began the season as sixthchoice fly half.

Olly Barkley, dropped from the squad and disciplined over the black market ticket scandal at the start of the week, will finish it against Wales this afternoon in response to the goalkicking emergency caused by Paul Grayson's late withdrawal.

With Jonny Wilkinson and Charlie Hodgson still recovering from surgery, Grayson's loss stretches English resources in the position to the limit.

As well as that top three, Barkley had seen goalkicking fly halves Alex King of Wasps and Dave Walder of Newcastle chosen ahead of him in the long list for the World Cup.

Since then, Barkley has had a superb season for Bath, and instead of rejoining them for tomorrow's Premiership match at London Irish, he will be kicking goals in front of 74,000 at Twickenham.

The forecast gales and lashing rain would be in keeping with a week of wildly fluctuating emotions for the 22-year-old from Wadebridge.

On Monday, the RFU stripped him of his allowance of 13 match tickets after his tickets for the Ireland game a fortnight ago were found to have turned up on the black market. The RFU relented yesterday rather than deny his family access to his Twickenham debut.

'I've never had a week of such mixed emotions, and it's one I shall never forget,' said Barkley, the first English stand off to make his full debut at Twickenham since Orrell's PeterWilliams in 1987.

Sir Clive Woodward's refusal to gamble on picking a team without a specialist goalkicker left him no option but to select Barkley ahead of Mike Catt, England's saviour against Wales when they last met in Brisbane last November. …