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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Brad Barritt: ‘I was shocked to see my England career end – I hope Eddie Jones doesn’t do it again’

It was an undeservedly low-key finale for a player who will be remembered as one of the Premiership greats, making 262 appearances in 12 seasons with the London club and also representing the British and Irish Lions on the tour of Australia in 2013.

Perhaps more than anything, he is a player who will be remembered for putting his body on the line for club and country. His injuries included a lacerated eyeball and he needed two metal plates inserting in a fractured cheekbone.

Tonight he will get the chance to “close the book” on his career with family, friends and former team-mates. The fact that South Africa was removed from red-list countries on the day he arrived back in the UK, having spent 10 days in Dubai to avoid having to hotel quarantine in London, is only a minor inconvenience.

“A part of me thought that the testimonial would never happen,” he says. “With Covid, no one knew how long or when there would be social gatherings and I’d almost accepted that it possibly wouldn’t happen. I am just grateful it is going ahead.

“I get to see a lot of the people who’ve been a part of my career, both family here in the UK, friends as well, and all the great people at Saracens and England that I’ve met over the years.”

Among the high-profile guests will be former Saracens and England team-mates Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Mako and Billy Vunipola, Alex Goode, Richard Wigglesworth, Alex Lozowski and Manu Tuilagi.

That the likes of the Vunipola brothers and George have been omitted from the England training squad for the autumn Test series is not lost on Barritt, given his own experience with England.

While the influx of new talent, spearheaded by Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith, has raised excitement and expectations ahead of the autumn internationals, he insists it would be a wrong move to discard them at such a critical moment ahead of the 2023 World Cup in France.

“I can’t speak in terms of what Eddie is thinking, but I have no doubt that in, many ways, it will galvanise those players and they’ll do everything they can to prove him wrong,” he says. “Whether that changes his mind or not, I don’t know. I had the experience of ‘not’.

“But to be brutally honest, looking good in the Premiership and then having to win away in Ireland in the Six Nations requires very different skill sets and mindsets.

“So while everyone wants the free-flowing, attacking game, the brutality of the Test arena doesn’t create half as many opportunities for players. There are certainly options going forward, but those Saracens players, in particular, are tried and trusted and top-class internationals. So, I think it would be foolish to overlook them all.”

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