RUGBY UNION: Exiles bank on Barkley

Bicester Advertiser: Olly Barkley eyes up a penalty for England during the 2007 World Cup. The former Bath and Gloucester stand-off is the first of London Welsh’s new signings Olly Barkley eyes up a penalty for England during the 2007 World Cup. The former Bath and Gloucester stand-off is the first of London Welsh’s new signings

FORMER England fly half Olly Barkley says he can’t wait to get stuck in after joining London Welsh.

The 32-year-old stand-off is the first of several signings the Exiles are set to unveil having secured promotion back to the Aviva Premiership last week.

Barkley, who joins Oxford-based Welsh after a four-month spell with the Scarlets, has won 23 caps for his country and was a World Cup runner-up in 2007.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to being part of what looks to be a great coaching team and a talented group of players.

“There looks to be a spirit amongst the group that I can’t wait to be involved with and I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Premiership with them all, and helping the club further establish itself at the Kassam Stadium and in Oxford.”

Barkley’s signing came as Welsh announced their Premiership home games would be at 2.30pm on Sundays unless otherwise dictated by television.

The fly half underlined his promise by making his England debut against USA in June 2001 aged 19 – before he had played a first-team game for Bath.

Barkley added on Twitter: “Can finally say I’ll be staying with my Welsh roots next year and signing for @LondonWelshRFC Can’t wait to get back to @premrugby and take on the challenge with what looks to be a team with talent and huge spirit. See you all soon!”

Greene King IPA Championship winners Welsh believe Barkley’s signing shows their intention to be “very competitive” in the top flight.

Head coach Justin Burnell said: “Olly has a wealth of experience, both at club and international level, and he’s exactly the type of player we’re looking for.

“He’s got a fantastic game understanding and his other biggest strong point is his accuracy with the ball.

“His goal kicking is phenomenal and we’ll need that in the Aviva Premiership.”

As well as scoring 1,588 points in 181 Premiership appearances, Barkley has racked up 737 points in 79 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup matches.

The Exiles will learn today who their opponents will be in next season’s European Challenge Cup, while their 2014-15 season ticket launch is on Thursday at 9am.

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