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Meehan has faith in Barkley
24 February 2008 19:24pm
Bath head coach Steve Meehan watched Olly Barkley orchestrate a bonus-point 34-15 victory at Leeds and insisted he has no fears about the England international's continued commitment.
Barkley will follow the same path trodden in recent years by Mike Tindall, Iain Balshaw and Gareth Delve in moving from the Recreation Ground to Kingsholm.
He could hardly be accused of a lack of commitment to his current employers after kicking two penalties and converting all four of Bath's tries in an outstanding individual performance at Headingley.
"I was asked on Friday whether or not Olly might be thinking of other things," said Meehan.
"But he illustrated his ambition for the club for the remainder of the season and his professionalism was there for all to see.
"He could still feature for England this season and if there were any doubts about Olly then he answered them today."
Barkley's departure will serve as a huge blow to Bath's aspirations for next season but Meehan is taking a philosophical stance.
"I was surprised that he made the decision to leave and it has been a long process - but it was purely a rugby decision and has nothing to do with anything else," stressed Meehan.
"I don't think his decision can be based on anything that has happened this season.
"This is the best season Bath have had for some time and it's the best rugby Bath have been playing for some time."
Bath's loss will clearly be Gloucester's gain and while he may have fallen way down the pecking order of England fly-halves, Barkley again proved his Premiership class.
His personal points haul of 14 and astute kicking game lit up an otherwise disappointing encounter which again exposed Leeds' customary failings and lack of quality.
Barkley combined superbly with Nick Abendanon to send Joe Maddock in at the right corner for an 18th-minute touchdown which laid the platform for victory.
Leeds wing Apo Satala - a Fiji international and private in the British Army - finished off a fine break from Jonny Hepworth in the 49th minute to briefly raise the prospect of a home fightback.
It never materialised as Bath hit back to claim two further tries through Danny Grewcock and Jonny Faamatuaina to ensure Satala's second try late on counted for little.
There was still time for wing Matt Banahan to claim a late fourth try for Bath to earn them a bonus point and rub salt deeper into Leeds' wounds.
Since winning promotion back to the Premiership last April, the Yorkshiremen have done little to dispel the theory that they are incapable of top-flight survival.
This was their 12th defeat from 13 games and leaves them rock-bottom of the Premiership.
Director of rugby Stuart Lancaster admitted he could have used a player of Barkley's ilk.
"He was exceptional and his kicking game was exemplary," said Lancaster.
"A player like that helps to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
"We were desperately disappointed to concede four tries but we weren't that far away.
"We've got to keep working and retain self-belief.
"We're in a tough run of games at the moment but self-belief is still high and the effort and application was outstanding."
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