GARETH DUNCAN chats to former Sharks centre Brad Barritt, who’s been included in England’s 32-man Elite Player Squad.
Barritt is one of nine newcomers to the squad along with fellow Saracens centre Owen Farrell, Northampton Saints duo Lee Dickson and Calum Clark, and Scarlets No 8 Ben Morgan.
Barritt joined Saracens in August 2008 and has played 87 matches for the club. He was named Saracens’ Player of the Year in the 2009-10 season and was called up for England’s tour to Australia and New Zealand in 2010, playing the midweek match against the New Zealand Maori.
Speaking from the newly opened Stellenbosch Academy of Sports, where Saracens trained on Wednesday morning, the 25-year-old was delighted with the news he received from England.
‘I’m delighted. It’s an opportunity that I’ve been wanting for a long time and one I’ll be grabbing with both hands,’ Barritt told keo.co.za. ‘I’ve been in England for three years now, and I feel I’ve adapted well since my arrival. Now I just have to work hard.’
Over and above international retirements (Lewis Moody, Jonny Wilkinson, Steve Thompson) and long-term injuries (Andrew Sheridan and Richard Wigglesworth), interim coach Stuart Lancaster has axed nearly half of the 2011 World Cup squad including Mike Tindall, Nick Easter and Mark Cueto.
‘Lots of players have been putting their hands up and there were some tough calls to make,’ said Lancaster. ‘However, in line with the selection philosophy about starting new era for English rugby,we have taken the chance to make changes and give players opportunities to be part of the journey towards 2015.
‘We are looking both at the present and just as importantly the future. We wanted to get the right balance in potential and experience and giving us the flexibility to play in different ways. We need to use the upcoming games to build the collective experience and we are confident we have got the right mix to take England forward into this Six Nations and beyond.’
Barritt added that he’s excited to be part of a new era in England rugby.
‘Losing many players is the general trend after a World Cup. And this now a huge chance for the younger guys who are ready for the step up. There are some new talented guys in the squad and I believe their selection is warranted. It’s an exciting time for everyone.’
England Elite Player Squad (32)
Forwards (18): Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Lee Mears (Bath ), Ben Morgan (Scarlets), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Rob Webber (London Wasps), David Wilson (Bath ), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints).
Backs (14): Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester ), David Strettle (Saracens), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).