Barritt eyes Sarries progress
January 14, 2012
Brad Barritt is Saracens' best player according to Brendan Venter © Getty Images
Brad Barritt is determined to pay a debt of thanks to Saracens for his England call-up by inspiring a "huge performance" in Sunday's Heineken Cup clash with Biarritz.
Barritt was one of six Saracens players to be named in England's 32-man elite squad, while fullback Alex Goode has also been drafted in to provide injury cover. There is a feeling at Saracens that many of the England call-ups are long overdue given the club were Aviva Premiership champions last season and runners-up the year before.
But England's interim head coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to give the likes of Barritt and centre partner Owen Farrell their Test chance as part of his red rose revolution. And it could be that England will feature an all-Saracens midfield trio in the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 4, with Charlie Hodgson to start at fly-half.
Lock Mouritz Botha, wing David Strettle and prop Matt Stevens are all pressing to feature at Murrayfield. But Barritt has not been able to think beyond Sunday's vital showdown that could see Saracens secure quarter-final status if they win with a bonus point.
"As delighted and proud as I was (to get the England call this week), I still realise there is a huge job to do at Saracens," Barritt said. "Saracens is the place that got us there and we owe it to them to put in a huge performance against Biarritz.
"Over the last few years Sarries haven't had much of a look-in, so it just shows how far we've come as a team. The success over the last few years has really put Sarries in the shop window and it's a great moment for the club."
Barritt moved from South Africa in August 2008 and Saracens technical director Brendan Venter has been a long-time supporter of his England credentials. Barritt has made one senior England appearance, in a non-cap international against the New Zealand Maori in 2010 but never really had a look-in under Martin Johnson.
"Bradley Barritt is pound-for-pound the best rugby player in our team," Venter told EWN Sport in South Africa during Saracens' training week in Cape Town. "He brings everything that Saracens is about - physicality, intensity, good hands and good vision. He's a lovely rugby player."
Saracens took control of a tough group with their away win against the Ospreys and they cannot afford to let things slip against Biarritz, who beat them in November but have been struggling in the Top 14.
"A look at the Top 14 table will show Biarritz currently in the bottom three but that position far from reflects the quality in their squad," said director of rugby Mark McCall. "We saw their quality and the dangerous players they possess when we made the trip to France in November. We know that we will have to be at our best."
Hodgson, Barritt and Farrell will link up in that potential all-England midfield while McCall has brought in prop Carlos Nieto and flanker Kelly Brown.
Defending Heineken Cup champions Leinster will confirm their place in the quarter-finals if they topple Glasgow at Firhill on Sunday. Leinster are six points clear of Glasgow at the Pool Three summit after reeling off three successive victories following an opening-weekend draw against Montpellier.
"Not many teams could manage the injury loss of a player of Brian O'Driscoll's talents and influence in the way Leinster have coped, but they have a fantastic culture and a lot of strong leaders throughout the team," said Glasgow coach Sean Lineen, who is well aware of the challenge ahead.
"Leinster's overall game is pretty much complete, and they are tremendously physical at the breakdown and (fly-half) Jonny Sexton makes them even that little bit more special."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor