Glasgow Warriors today announced that John Barclay has signed a one-year extension to stay in Scotland.
The back rower pledged to throw his weight behind the Warriors’ drive for success by signing a new contract that will see him retain an integral role within the Scotstoun set-up, with an option for a further year upon completion.
Barclay has long been tipped as one of the most gifted openside operators in the world game, with displays in the RaboDirect PRO12, Heineken Cup and for Scotland winning him widespread recognition from an early age. At the height of the Killer Bs after tour victories over Argentina his name was bandied about as a potential Lion or Scotland captain. Since then his star has waned somewhat although a recent move to blindside during the Six Nations saw him rediscover a little of his sparkle, operating in tandem with Ross Rennie. He has also played at Number 8 this season for Glasgow.
There has been a lot of speculation in recent months that Barclay, along with Johnnie Beattie, might be tempted to move elsewhere. New contract agreements have been notably absent for both players as other key names in the squad have confirmed new deals or moves and new back row signings have been announced by the club.
In fact this announcement almost comes as a surprise, with many assuming Barclay and Beattie would both be moving on at the end of the season.
The competition for places in the Glasgow back row has been fierce all season despite the lack of form from Beattie, with Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro and Rob Harley all stepping up to challenge for starting places but in some cases pushing for international honours too. It is set to become even more of a strong suit next season, with Tonga’s Rugby World Cup No.8 Viliami Ma’afu and All Black Angus Macdonald recruited to supplement the already impressive current options.
Even with Beattie plying his trade in Montpellier next season to create a little space, Barclay will by no means be guaranteed the 7 shirt that had been his for the last few years, and it would not have been surprising should he have sought a challenge away from the club he has played for since apprentice level.
It is likely however that with Richie Gray moving on and Kelly Brown already departed, there was heavy pressure from upstairs to keep some Scottish international experience and star power in the Glasgow pack to help bring the younger boys on. The length of today’s deal could represent a compromise to this end, keeping Barclay at Glasgow but only for another year. He is still well in his playing prime and an extra year allows him to help the new talent and coaching team make the transition.
Barclay himself told www.glasgowwarriors.org: “It’s always a big call to decide where your future lies, particularly when you’ve been with one club for a significant period. I’ve taken some time to think through the decision, and I’m convinced that it’s the right one. Glasgow Warriors are going places and I want to contribute to that process.
“I’ll be giving my all for Sean Lineen and the rest of the coaches as we try to reach the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs, and will be doing likewise when Gregor [Townsend], whom I know well from Scotland duty, takes over as head coach next season.”
After that perhaps, a move abroad may beckon. If the Warriors can continue to challenge for honours he may well exercise his option and stay put, but today’s announcement could well just be delaying the inevitable.