Barkley's England omission causes storm

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson's decision to omit Olly Barkley from England's elite squad yesterday was met with a storm of protest from fans, experts and team-mates.

The Bath centre was one of the form players in the Guinness Premiership at the end of last season and he started both of England's midweek tour games against the Australian Barbarians.

But Johnson no longer considers Barkley to be in the leading 64 players in the country, having left him out of both the senior elite squad and the second-string Saxons party.

Barkley's Bath team-mate Luke Watson immediately took to Twitter to register his surprise at Johnson's decision.

"Olly of England's best ball-distributors, goal-kickers, tactical-kickers and rugby brains not selected in England squad!" wrote Watson.

Former England centre Will Greenwood suggested Barkley had paid the price for his honesty in appraising England's summer tour performances and his own Test chances.

Barkley was frustrated that his qualities as a playmaker were being overlooked by the England coaches who favour a more physical presence at inside centre.

Fellow Bath centre Shontayne Hape and Wasps' Riki Flutey, who has not played regular rugby in a year, were selected in the senior squad while Brad Barritt was preferred to Barkley in the Saxons.

"Decisions are there to be respected and used positively wherever you can," Barkley said philosophically.

Barkley's omission was initially overshadowed by Johnson's decision to drop his first-choice captain Steve Borthwick.

Hooker Lee Mears and wing Ugo Monye, both of whom were 2009 Test Lions, and centre Mathew Tait were also relegated to the Saxons squad.

Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs and prop Dan Cole were officially promoted into the seniors after establishing themselves in the Test team in the drawn series with Australia.

Wasps' uncapped centre Dominic Waldouck has also been included along with Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie and Gloucester prop Paul Doran-Jones.

Johnson said: "Leaving Steve Borthwick out was a very hard decision.

"He's done a fantastic job for England over the last couple of years and it's the most difficult call we've had to make.

"It is very tough on Steve but it goes to show the depth of talent we've got in that area."