Trust me, Barritt is the right call
Brad is so competitive it is best to avoid him in training. I know he will deliver tonight
Critics of Brad Barritt’s performance against Wales last Saturday may have been surprised to see him retained in the England midfield to face Australia tonight. But if there is one man I would rely on to be a rock for England in the intense pressure they will face at Twickenham, it is Brad.
Off the field, he is a quiet, intelligent lad, a family man. Yet on it, he is one of the most competitive beasts I have played with or against.
I would put him up there with Lewis Moody and Jacques Burger as players who give everything to the shirt, no matter whether it is their national side or club. They give it all every single week.
For Brad, that even includes training sessions. You stay away from Brad in training. You will end up with a black eye from an elbow to the face, he will have taken two toes off you by standing on your foot and he will not have felt a thing. He will protest, “It wasn’t me”, but Brad, let me tell you, it was you.
He is just too hard for his own good.
At Saracens a couple of years ago we had a tackling drill before games – just a couple of hits to get warm. But too many people were getting injured because of Brad that we had to cancel the drill.
If he misses a tackle or gets sidestepped in training when it is just shoulder on contact – not full on – that is it. He is going to smash you full on next time.
Yet while he is an ultracompetitor, Brad is not overtly aggressive on the pitch. He is actually quite controlled.
I am probably the hot-headed type where I lose my concentration quite quickly but Brad can stay in the moment, while being aggressive, and make the right decision by staying calm.
That is so hard to do. The more people you have got with experience and leadership qualities like that in the team, the better you handle the situation you are in if you are behind or in front. You have a better game understanding, a feel for the game and you cannot get enough of players like Brad in the team. It will only help England keep calm in the pressure of tonight.
That is why I was not surprised that he has been retained by England, even though he was criticised for a poor defensive read in the build-up to the try by Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies that turned the game on its head last Saturday.
But that was not solely down to Brad. It was due to a disconnection from the midfield and wings and when that happens it leaves someone out to dry.
With the system that England run, it is difficult to be out on the wing because you have to cover so much ground. Same for the full-back.
You have to put yourself in the position to be able to get up with Brad and also get back for a kick and probably at that time Anthony Watson was just a little bit disconnected from Brad and not in the position to get on the end of the line and get back for a kick.
It is something the wings are constantly working on but if you switch off for a split second it can lead to trouble.
I would imagine in the heat of the moment, the decision was to put pressure on Wales. The problem was that England were a little bit tight in the midfield near the ruck.
If anyone had taken one step more to the right, the whole thing would have been shut down no problem.
You can be sure that Brad will make amends tonight. He is back at inside centre, his preferred position, and as I said, he is one of the most consistent players I have ever played with. You can always rely on him. I know Stuart Lancaster knows that too and I have no doubt that England can count on him tonight.