Barkley wants Hodgson partnership

Olly Barkley, who has replaced Charlie Hodgson at fly-half on England's two-Test tour of Australia, sees his call-up as an opportunity to establish himself in the side rather than simply challenge his big friend for the number 10 shirt. [more]

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Olly Barkley, who has replaced Charlie Hodgson at fly-half on England’s two-Test tour of Australia, sees his call-up as an opportunity to establish himself in the side rather than simply challenge his big friend for the number 10 shirt.

The Bath player, who missed this year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship through injury, knows it would require something special to depose Hodgson who has starred for both England and Guinness Premiership champions Sale.

"Charlie’s been playing outstandingly well and he’s the form 10 in Europe at the moment," said Barkley, who has played most of his recent rugby in the centre because of injuries at his club.

He returned to fly-half to contribute 21 points in England’s 46-19 victory over the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday, coming out on top in the personal duel with his boyhood hero Carlos Spencer.

"It’s a long time since I was playing 10 at Twickenham in a white shirt, in fact it’s a long time since I was playing 10 full stop," he said.

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Barkley, who had not figured at fly-half for England since the France game in March 2004, is still pondering whether he would rather play there or inside centre.

"I’m still undecided. I enjoy the variety of playing at 12 because you can inter-change a bit and that keeps you fresh," he said.

It also offers him the prospect of playing alongside Hodgson, one of England’s key players handed a summer’s rest before the long slog through to next summer’s World Cup finals in France.

"Charlie’s playing fantastically at the moment. He’s a good friend of mine and I’m delighted for him," said Barkley.

Hodgson, originally perceived to be simply keeping the shirt warm for injured 2003 World Cup-winning hero Jonny Wilkinson, has made the position his own but Barkley declines to draw comparisons with that situation.

"I just see it that Charlie has been given the time off because he’s played a lot of rugby and as a result I’m playing 10. I’m playing well and I’d love to come out of these two games with two victories," he said.

Barkley added: "If Charlie had come on tour we would probably have played 10 and 12 together and that’s something I missed in the Six Nations.

"I really enjoy playing with Charlie and I’m disappointed he’s not coming, both from a playing point of view and a social point of view because we get on.

"If I’m picked and play well I’ll put myself in the mix. If you stick your hand up in a 10 jersey then you can put yourself in a position to play 12 as well."

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