Barkley: Many more will join me in brawn drain

Racing recruit says younger players cannot ignore the big money in France

There have never been so many English, Welsh and Scottish inter- nationals earning a living in France and Olly Barkley, who jumped aboard the gravy train from Bath to Paris last October, believes that only a substantial lift in the Premiership salary cap will stop the number growing to include more players in their mid-20s.

The current cap of around £5.2 million (including the "excluded player", academy credits and injury dispensation) will be increased for the 2013-14 season. For the first time it will be a straightforward share of the Premiership's broadcast and sponsorship revenues, rather than an arbitrary figure.

However, even with the new BT Vision television deal kicking in, it is understood the uplift will be less than 10 per cent; perhaps £250,000 per club. Enough for an extra marquee player or two or three squad members.

The average annual spending on players in France dwarfs the Premiership's by two or three to one. It is thought a "medical joker" such as Barkley, who moves to cover for injured players and then stays for two more years, might earn around £800,000.

The fly-half/centre, who won 23 caps for England from 2001-08, turned 31 in November, and after settling quickly at Racing Métro he wants to see out his career in the French league. If he stays at Racing he will share a changing room next season with Jamie Roberts, 26, the Wales centre from Cardiff Blues.

A batch of A-listers, including the Wales flanker Dan Lydiate and the Northampton Saints props Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati, is rumoured to be joining too.

"If the salary cap isn't moved in England, you will see more players coming over here younger," said Barkley from his flat in Paris's suburbs. "The best time to do it is around 25, when you're experienced enough to cope with a change in culture but can still go home and play afterwards.

"Clubs are making it easier for players to move: relocation services, finding apartments, French lessons twice a week," he adds. "You don't feel so much of an alien."

A generation or two ago Maurice Colclough, Nigel Horton and Rob Andrew were rare birds who flew the English nest to play for French clubs. The notable difference now is that England refuse to pick France-based players – unlike Wales, who have been obliged to compromise over the likes of Bayonne's Mike Phillips and Perpignan's James Hook, sometimes training without them.

"I understand why England do it," said Barkley. "It's to keep an eye on people, to see them on a weekly basis, and I agree with that. You want to see combinations together – for example, Toby Flood with Ben Youngs, or Manu Tuilagi with an English No 12. But I can't help thinking that if more players leave then England might have to move the goalposts a little bit."

Today Barkley's team will travel to Toulon, the epitome of the recruitment phenomenon. The Côte d'Azur club have Jonny Wilkinson and five other England players, Wales's top loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins, plus Bakkies Botha, Carl Hayman and Juan Fernandez Lobbe. "They're like a Barbarians team, and Jonny is loved down there," said Barkley.

"The point is that there's a whole lot of life to live after rugby, and it needs planning for. Hits are getting bigger, careers are getting shorter. [England forwards] Hendre Fourie and Alex Brown have just been forced to pack it in. Most clubs in the Premiership will put out the same 25 players every week. If they could, they'd put out the same 18. Here our team will change from week to week, and it allows players like [Juan Martin] Hernandez to stay fresh. It's the way forward for clubs."

Barkley revelled in helping Racing beat derby rivals Stade Français in front of 45,000 spectators at Stade de France last month. Racing's main benefactor, Jacky Lorenzetti, has moved Saturday's home Heineken Cup match against Saracens to Nantes. "It's not like football; the support won't come to you, you have to go and find it," said Barkley. "That will be true for rugby for the next 50 years. Until more money comes in, you've got to go looking for it."

A finely balanced pool finishes the following week, with Saracens at home to Edinburgh in a fortnight while Racing go away to Munster. "We have to get points from both our remaining matches," Barkley said. "Saracens are one of the most structured and organised sides in Europe. Everyone knows what they are doing but they are hard to break down."

So are there any drawbacks to life in France? "Being a gobby so-and-so on the field, it's been quite hard. The first match against Saracens, I felt like someone had cut my tongue off. That game inspired and motivated me to go and learn the language because I felt so out of it."

Overpaid and over there

Top 14

Agen: Jamie Robinson (Wales); Bayonne: Mike Phillips (Wales); Biarritz: Iain Balshaw (England), Aled Brew (Wales), Ben Broster (Wales), Magnus Lund (England); Bordeaux-Bègles: none; Castres: Max Evans (Scotland), Marcel Garvey (England, u/c); Clermont Auvergne: Lee Byrne (Wales), Nathan Hines (Scotland); Grenoble: none; Mont-de-Marsan: Scott Murray (Scotland); Montpellier: Johnnie Beattie (Scotland), Shontayne Hape (England); Perpignan: Luke Charteris (Wales), Richard Haughton (England, u/c), James Hook (Wales), Luke Narraway (England), Alasdair Strokosch (Scotland); Racing Métro 92: Olly Barkley (England); Stade Français: Paul Sackey (England); Toulon: Delon and Steffon Armitage (England), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Nick Kennedy, Andrew Sheridan, Simon Shaw, Jonny Wilkinson (all England); Toulouse: none.

Pro D2

Auch: Tom Harrison (England, u/c), Richard Jenkins (Wales, u/c); Béziers: John Howard (England, u/c); Brive: Mike Blair (Scotland), Jamie Noon (England); Colomiers: Dan Williams (England, u/c); Dax: Mark Ireland (England, u/c); La Rochelle: Lesley Vainikolo (England); Lyon: Huw Bennett (Wales), Luke Abraham (England, u/c); Massy: Gary Strain (Scotland, u/c), Robbie Johnston (Scotland, u/c); Narbonne: Richard List (England, u/c), Craig Smith (Scotland); Oyonnax: Joe El Abd (England, u/c), Scott Newlands (Scotland, u/c); Pays d'Aix: Phil Christophers (England).

u/c = uncapped

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor