Six Nations: Brad Barritt happy to operate under the radar for England
England take on France at Twickenham this weekend
Wednesday 20 February 2013
Brad Barritt may be an unsung hero of Stuart Lancaster's England regime, but he 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.
But now England's defensive captain is beginning to receive 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 face France at Twickenham on Saturday, with Les Bleus expected to unleash the powerful midfield duo of Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud.
But those French giants will run into England's rock.
Since making his debut against Scotland last year Barritt has made more tackles (104) than all other England centres - Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Joseph and Billy Twelvetrees - combined.
Offensively he is not flash but industrious. Since the start of 2012 the Welsh midfielder Jonathan Davies is the only centre in world rugby to have carried the ball more times than Barritt (89).
"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.
"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."
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, leading a high-pressure defensive line.
Bastareaud, the 18st 2lb Toulon powerhouse, has beaten more defenders than any other player in this year’s Six 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 way we applied pressure on the Irish and intensity in the kick chase were monumental to our success in Dublin.
"We are confident because of what we have done - but we are aware we need to improve because we expect a resurgent France team at Twickenham."
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.
Barritt added: "That match showed that in Test rugby you can't take anything for granted. We are in the same position now.
"We have had a game where we have been able to play more expansively and a game where we have knuckled down. It has shown both strings to our bow.
"It has been a good start for us with two wins. We need to back up now against France."
Lancaster will confirm his starting line-up on Thursday, with three changes expected from the 12-6 victory against Ireland.
Manu Tuilagi is expected to return to the midfield in place of Twelvetrees, with Dylan Hartley starting at hooker and Courtney Lawes in his less familiar role at blindside flanker.
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