High praise for brilliant Brad
Mon, 06 Jan 2014 12:09
Saracens boss Mark McCall was full of praise for 'brilliant' Brad Barritt as the England centre made his first start in four months at the weekend.
Ankle surgery had seen the South African-born star sidelined since September, a 15-week absence that ensured he missed the first four rounds of European Cup action.
Barritt, who was a late call up for the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia in June and July, didn't feature in the opening Pool Three win at Connacht, the following week's one-point defeat against Toulouse at Wembley, or the back-to-back bonus point victories over Zebre last month.
But he finally returned to action as a replacement in the English Premiership win over Worcester Warriors a week ago and stepped up his comeback by playing a starring role as Sarries thumped Gloucester 29-8 at Kingsholm at the weekend.
And, if McCall's assessment of his performance in the West Country at the weekend is anything to go by, he now seems all set to play a significant part in Sarries' attempts to topple pool leaders Toulouse on French soil on Sunday.
"For Brad to produce that level of performance having had 30 minutes of rugby in five months is quite something. I thought he was outstanding," said McCall.
"He was brilliant. He passed the ball really well, too, and the combination with Marcelo Bosch in midfield was really good."
McCall was equally impressed with the efforts of his team as a whole after they blew Gloucester away inside half an hour.
The home side simply had no answer to Sarries' power and precision as McCall and co jumped back to the top of the Aviva Premiership table with an 11th win in 12 league games.
"I think the first 30 minutes was as good as we've been in terms of our overall game," added McCall, whose side put 49 points on English Champions Leicester Tigers the week before Christmas and have won 10 straight games in all competitions since the beginning of November.
"To be 19-0 up away from home against Gloucester takes a bit of doing. It was a great performance. Our set-piece was dominant, our kicking game and intensity were at a high level, and we combined that with some really good rugby as well.
"To back up the Leicester performance with two away wins like we've done against Worcester and Gloucester tells you a lot about the culture and togetherness at the club. We're in a good place at the moment."
As for Barritt, the returning midfielder was understandably delighted to be back in the thick of things on the eve of their 'huge' European Cup clash with Europe's most-successful side.
The 28-year-old believes both he and his team-mates have taken big steps forward in recent weeks and he can't wait to head across the Channel for the crucial Round 5 encounter.
"I'm delighted, it's fantastic to be back. To be part of a great performance like that was very special. We will now look to take the next step forward next week with a huge game away against Toulouse," said Barritt.
"We've made massive strides forward at Saracens in combining all phases of the game, and the small tweaks we have made to our attacking framework is paying dividends. Our play is a lot more tempo-based now. We scored three great tries, and there could have been a couple more had things gone a bit differently.
"This team is obviously very positive, playing some fantastic rugby, and we just want to keep that winning momentum up."
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