Heineken Cup: Brad Barritt backs flying Saracens to test Toulouse

Brad Barritt believes the current Saracens side is the best  in his five years at the club

Form is a fickle business. When Brad Barritt offered a cautionary opinion on Saracens’ next opponents Toulouse – “they always get themselves up for the Heineken Cup” – it was a riposte to a statement of fact that the French giants are slightly off the pace in their domestic league.

Barritt’s Saracens, by contrast, appear to be in the best possible nick. They are top of the Premiership and, according to their England centre, who made a solid first start after injury in the 29-8 win at Gloucester on Saturday, better than ever in terms of personnel, including their 2011 title-winning team.

“I’d say it’s the strongest team in my time,” said Barritt, who joined Saracens in autumn 2008. “We’ve made massive strides forward in combining all phases of the game. The small tweaks we’ve made to our attacking framework is paying dividends.

“Last year and in previous seasons we often undid the good work we’d done in attack. We played to quite a structured middle-pod phase, playing around the corner. Now we’re a lot more direct, a lot more tempo-based, and it’s about players making better decisions at better times.

“In tough conditions [at Gloucester] we scored three great tries and there could have been a couple more.”

Moving into Europe now, Saracens will probably need to beat Toulouse – who won the reverse fixture by a point at Wembley in October – and Connacht to earn a home quarter-final tie.

Some point to Saracens’ artificial pitch as one source of their new-found attacking prowess as the Premiership’s top tryscorers with 38 in 12 matches, with 11 wins. It may be a mere coincidence that they have deployed more movement and dynamism since Andy Farrell departed to become England’s backs coach. And as Barritt, who injured ankle ligaments on the opening weekend of the season and returned to play 30 minutes of a similarly emphatic win at Worcester nine days ago, pointed out: “We’ve bought a fantastic squad.”

England will need to fashion an effective midfield too for their Six Nations Championship opener in France on 1 February. Gloucester’s Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees were preoccupied with an unsuccessful finger-in-the-dyke operation as Saracens cantered to three tries. They also embarrassed the Cherry-and-White pack by pushing them off their put-in and earning a penalty in the third quarter when the visitors – with Steve Borthwick and Billy Vunipola in the sin-bin – had a pack of six forwards and Barritt as an emergency flanker. It led to Gloucester’s fifth loss in seven Premiership home matches. The club’s hierarchy have moved decisively to recruit top front-rowers Richard Hibbard and John Afoa for next season but there is significant disquiet over the current form.

The domino effect of domination helped Alex Goode at full-back for Saracens to produce some of his dancing, thrusting best. Jonny May’s candidacy as an England wing went unproven. And in any case the challenge for any selector, club or country, is to judge correctly a formline involving the likes of Worcester and Gloucester against what might be needed to outdo Toulouse or France.

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all