Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Barritt happy to avoid the limelight

Brad Barritt was key to England neutralising Ireland's attacking threat

Brad Barritt, one of the unsung heroes of Stuart Lancaster's England regime, is happy to continue operating under the radar.

The Saracens centre is a players' player. Opponents and team-mates alike understand exactly why he is such an important cog in the England machine. To Barritt that is all that matters.

He said: "As long as you have the respect of the team you are in and the people you play for, that is what matters. It may take longer for others to see it but you need to be true to yourself and keep working because, eventually, people will see it. You just have to ensure you are doing your best for the side every day. I am very satisfied so far."

But England's defensive captain is beginning to gain the same kind of recognition outside of the red rose squad - just as he prepares for one of his most physical challenges yet. Unbeaten England tackle France on Saturday, with Les Bleus expected to unleash the powerful midfield duo of Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud on Twickenham.

But those French giants will run into England's rock. Barritt has made more tackles (104) since his debut against Scotland last year than all other England centres - Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Joseph and Billy Twelvetrees - combined.

"Everyone enjoys a fast attacking game but you can also enjoy grinding out a win and being a pillar of strength - defend and lead from the front. I like to think I'm adaptable and can play what's in front of me," Barritt said.

Barritt was key to England's success in neutralising the attacking threat of Ireland's creative midfield of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy. Bastareaud, the 18st 2lb Toulon powerhouse, has beaten more defenders than any other player in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations and will be an altogether different challenge.

Barritt explained: "He is a big physical presence but size isn't everything in rugby. If we get our line speed right the biggest guys can fall just as hard. That is something we work hard on as a team, getting our line speed right and not allowing teams to get any momentum."

The last time France lost their opening two championship matches was in 1982. Last year in Paris it was England who turned the tables on France, who only months earlier had reached the World Cup final, to achieve one of the landmark victories of Lancaster's tenure.

Lancaster will confirm his starting line-up on Thursday, with three changes expected from the 12-6 win against Ireland. Manu Tuilagi is set to return to the midfield in place of Twelvetrees, with Dylan Hartley to start at hooker and Courtney Lawes in his less familiar role at blindside flanker.

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre