Barkley happy to start over

Olly Barkley has every intention of making headlines for the right reasons this season.

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Olly Barkley has every intention of making headlines for the right reasons this season. The England centre has had his fair share of tabloid column inches, from being sprayed with CS gas by police after a fight in a bar in the summer of 2006 to being charged with assault following an incident at a friend's wedding last year. Cleared, in both cases, of any wrongdoing, Gloucester's big summer signing is keen to finally put the tabloid talk behind him and focus on his rugby.

This weekend, his new employers - whom he joined in the summer to end an eight-year stay at Bath - take on Biarritz in their opening game of the Heineken Cup. And Barkley, 26, admitted he was keen to get out and play. "With everything that's gone on in the past, it's nice to wipe the slate clean, start afresh at a new club and return to playing my best rugby," he said. Despite his off-field problems last year, Barkley was selected for England's tour of New Zealand in the summer and was then named in Martin Johnson's 30-man elite England squad for the autumn Tests.

The tour ended miserably for Barkley, fracturing a wrist in the second Test. Having fully recovered, he made his debut for the club last month against Harlequins and tomorrow will make his fourth competitive appearance in a Gloucester shirt. Happy with his new club Barkley added: "The chance came along and I thought 'let's go for it'. It was either that or spend the rest of my career at Bath and I wanted to get to retirement and think I at least gave it a crack somewhere else.

"Gloucester are the club to help me achieve that and they're capable of winning really big things this season. It's a challenge getting in this team for starters and hopefully we'll get even better as a team, starting with the Heineken Cup." sports@thenational.ae