Oval Talk

Phillips behaviour a warning for France-bound Barkley

Oval Talk

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This week there were two pieces of contrasting news relating to British players based (well, one soon to be) in France.

These served as notice of the potential positives and pitfalls of the opportunities afforded to professionals and how they are accepted, embraced and maximised.

On the one hand there was Olly Barkley, who played his last game for Bath, a club with whom he has been associated since his teens and throughout his career - save for a solitary season at Gloucester - and who is now set to embark on an adventure with Racing Metro.

On the other there was Mike Phillips, who was so vehemently reprimanded by Bayonne over the weekend that he was told he would not be playing for the club "until further notice" and will incur a financial sanction which will make an example of him, according to irate chairman Alain Afflelou.

Bayonne have just lifted that suspension, which lasted for the weekend Basque derby win over Biarritz, and he would have been absent for that game anyway with a hand injury suffered in training - but their point remains.

Both are players who have committed off-field transgressions during their careers, something which can be considered par for the course in the development of any youngster finding their way.

Both are now 30, however, an age by which it would be expected that a professional with more than a decade of experience behind them should know what is acceptable and what is not and, more importantly, how to curb those urges to misbehave.

Barkley's sign-off from the Rec was a sentimental one: he scored 16 points in Bath's 31-10 win and after the match shook the hand of every journalist in the press room as he embraced his farewell. In one interview about his impending departure he described his forthcoming Metro challenge as an "offer I couldn't resist" and his enthusiasm was obvious.

Phillips's latest situation was the polar opposite, however: while Barkley appeared ready for a new challenge and the hard work that will bring, his latest exploits resulted in the most extreme possible outcome.

Afflelou did not hold back in his comments when reacting to the most recent late-night misdemeanour of Phillips, which came after a crushing home defeat against Toulouse. He has been repeatedly warned about his behaviour.

"I'm furious, incandescent with rage," said Afflelou. "What he did is unacceptable, completely out of order for a professional. It shows a lack of respect for his team-mates as well as for the public.

"This is not the first time and we've all had enough of it. It's shameful. He won't play for us until further notice and we are going to impose a financial sanction. And I can tell you that it won't be a measly fine, not like a parking ticket or anything.

"I want everyone to know what this means."

The seemingly contrasting attitudes from each player add to a never-ending puzzlement that surrounds actions like those of Phillips.

While Barkley will need no reminding of what is required of him upon his arrival at Racing Metro this latest episode involving the Wales scrum-half will have served as a timely reminder that a trip to play across the Channel is ultimately what you make of it, and the rules of professional conduct are just as strictly enforced wherever you choose to play.

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