Barritt proves a real eye-opener

England's new centre would have played every Test this year except for horrific injury

When Brad Barritt predicts his club Saracens' crucial Heineken Cup meeting with Munster today will swing on which team are the "most hungry, most physical and most clinical", these are not throwaway words from one who has no idea of their meaning. Barritt's year to date could justifiably be described as a mix of the glory and the gory, with a big, fat Greek wedding to top it off.

Most imminently for the South African-born England centre, Saracens need to reverse last weekend's 15-9 defeat by Munster in Limerick, preferably by a greater margin, to seize control of Pool One, with Racing Métro away and Edinburgh at home in January to come.

"The team that wins will definitely be in the power seat in the group," said Barritt. "Unfortunately for us we got several components of our game wrong last week. Munster did their homework on our line-out and we didn't get much ball. We've learnt from that, we'll rectify it and we're looking to put on a big performance at Vicarage Road."

Acknowledging Munster's muscular threat, Owen Farrell will start for Saracens at fly-half alongside Barritt, with Charlie Hodgson on the bench, reprising the Nos 10 and 12 positions when England unleashed their glorious victory over the All Blacks three weeks ago. It featured a try by Barritt – taking a pass from Farrell, he shot through a gap left by Conrad Smith and Kieran Read, and effected a give-and-take with Manu Tuilagi – that he accepted was the greatest moment of his career to date.

For a short time in the summer, halfway through Barritt's debut year in international rugby, such a feat appeared unlikely. He was temporarily blinded in his left eye on tour in South Africa – in his native Durban, of all places – when he was tackling a Springbok and Farrell, as he rushed in to help, jabbed his middle finger into Barritt's open eye. "I just remember going instantly blind, and feeling it closing up on me," Barritt recalled. "The physio opened my eye and little bits of blood started squirting out. I just saw a look on his face that didn't look too promising. That's where a bit of panic sets in."

Barritt needed two sets of stitches, to mend a three-centimetre laceration of the white of his eye, and to reattach the eyeball to the muscle behind it. This, remarkably, was good news. "My humble understanding of it is the coloured part of the eye is what's involved with your sight," said Barritt. "Once they'd told me it was the white bit, there was relief that my sight was safe. I spent the next week sat in a dark room, applying ointments every hour or so. That was a bit taxing."

So, having missed only the Second Test, he played as a replacement in the Third. And he finished an eventful trip with probably the most acceptable black eye ever presented by a groom, as he married his Cypriot-descended bride Giorgia at the Pantanassa Greek Orthodox Church in Johannesburg.

Had it not been for the eye injury the 26-year-old Barritt would have played all England's 12 Tests under the new head coach, Stuart Lancaster, in 2012. His acumen in the tackle and outstanding defensive generalship are steadily gaining plaudits, and though England may have lost to Australia and South Africa before landing the big fish of New Zealand, Barritt pointed out that across those three matches they conceded just five tries, one of them a freakish, ricochet-laden effort by the Boks.

This is how he answers any pundits' gripes over creativity. "What you can do at club level and Test level are completely different," Barritt said. "England's defence, led by [backs coach] Andy Farrell, is an aggressive, off-the-line defence, and through that you're going to create your own opportunities. Manu's interception try against New Zealand was a result of that." Look back at that score and you will see Barritt bearing down on the passer, Read.

"Personally I feel I've had a big role in attack," Barritt added. "Looking across all the England games, I've had a hand in most of the tries."

England have vowed to pitch up for the Six Nations in February at "the same level". Presumably, having beaten the world's No 1 team, that means winning the Championship? "I am sure we won't look any further than the first game against Scotland, and having Twickenham as jubilant as it was after the New Zealand game," said Barritt.

"But this team has been together for a year now and the building blocks will now be taken as a given. As a team that's hungry for success, ultimately you want to be Six Nations champions."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot