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New boy Barritt relishing England revival

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Tom Fordyce | 18:36 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

While one England national team might have been in crisis on Thursday, another was continuing to show clear signs of recovery.

The parallels between the nation's football and rugby sides - hugely disappointing World Cups, a subsequent influx of new blood, a struggle to reconnect with disenchanted supporters - were already strong. That both now have interim coaches called Stuart, and that rugby's Lancaster revealed that football's Pearce had phoned him last week to wish him luck, only seemed to underline the bond.

But while the atmosphere at Wembley was one of crisis and chaos, at the England rugby team's camp in Surrey there was a discernible sense of order and optimism in the bitter winter air.

You'd expect a former PE teacher like Lancaster to be strong on organisation and discipline. Spending some time in the company of his new centre Brad Barritt, you get the impression that he's also reawakening his squad's enthusiasm and enjoyment.

"It was an incredible experience, the proudest moment of my career," says Barritt of last weekend's 13-6 victory over Scotland. "Over the past three weeks the experience has been amazing."

Brad Barritt tackles Sean Lamont

Barritt led the way for England with 13 tackles against Scotland. Photo: AP

There can be a nagging fear, when listening to a player talking in such relentlessly upbeat tones, that you are being gently mugged by a carefully designed PR strategy.

In Barritt's case that's probably both uncharitable and incorrect. The man who tackled himself into exhaustion at Murrayfield - with 13 bone-jarring hits, he and Tom Palmer were England's most industrious defenders - genuinely seems to be relishing each smash and every second.

"You have to be positive. Ultimately, rugby is a passion of mine," he says, bright-eyed and squashed of nose. "Playing the game is immensely enjoyable, and it's obviously something I've wanted to do since I was a young kid.

"While you're here you've really got to make it count. And the best way to enjoy it is to make sure you're successful at it too."

Of the three debutants who started against Scotland, it was Barritt who perhaps impressed the most. England did very little going forward. Much of the good work they did on the back foot centred around the Durban-born Saracen.

"At the beginning it was about managing the emotion," he says. "The anthem is a proud moment but you have to snap straight back into the game.

"You're aided by the adrenaline, but you don't want it to overshadow the functioning in your brain. I remember looking up at the clock and 33 minutes had gone. It went by in a flash.

"The intensity and physicality of it - it definitely felt like a step up. The collisions were that much harder, there's more of an edge to the game."

Barritt's route to the red rose is an unusual one. His parents are Zimbabweans who moved to South Africa the year before he was born, although he has had a British passport since birth through his English grandparents. His grandfather even played for English Universities.

His first experience of the international game came with Emerging Springboks as part of the side that won the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest in 2007. But after joining Sarries a year later he was fast-tracked through England's second-string Saxons by Lancaster, and then summoned to the senior side's tour of Australasia as cover for Dominic Waldouck.

"If the game isn't going the team's way in an attacking sense, I like to see it as a chance to make my mark defensively," he says with a grin. "I do enjoy the physical challenge. If a game's going to go like that I'm willing to stand up and really make it count.

"Ideally as a player you want to be attacking, but if it goes into that defensive shift it's about getting hungry to work. And ideally, when you come out of a tackle, you want the guy carrying the ball to be in more pain than you."

For those of us who will never know how it feels to have to bring a 16-stone rugby professional to a juddering halt, time after shoulder-shuddering time, what have his greatest hits told him?

"If you get the technique right, you're going to inflict more pain than you're going to feel. It's about getting your body nice and square, getting your body in line and then, when you see the chance, explode onto it."

Does stopping a runaway flanker give him a buzz? "It does. You know when you've made a big hit when the guys are tapping you on the back and really raising their energy when it happens. It's a great way to stamp your authority on a game.

The England rugby team play in the snow

Lancaster's men had to train in the snow as winter gripped England this week. Photo: Getty

"If the tackle isn't so good, or if you come out of it worse, it makes you want to get up and make the next one count.

"Everyone will miss a tackle here and there, so it's the strength of the defensive unit that really counts, having guys covering for each other inside and out and really defending as a pack. That's the mark of a really good defensive unit - having a guy round the corner willing to put in the hit if someone else slips up."

Lancaster has plumped for an unchanged team for this Saturday's clash with Italy in Rome. While Barritt looked shattered when being replaced late on in Edinburgh, it's not his body that has had required the most recovery time to be ready again this week.

"I've done a lot of that sort of tackling through my life so I'm pretty well conditioned to it. For me it's more the emotion. You've got your levels that high that - it's not a comedown, but you need to re-evaluate things.

"Sometimes as a player you've got the game buzzing through your head three or four times. I do struggle to sleep after a game at times. With experience, over the years, you learn how to block it off a little. But usually for me it's two days after the match that everything comes out."

These are very early days for Lancaster's new regime. By the coach's own admission, last weekend left a lot of room for improvement. In Rome his inexperienced side will come up against an Italian outfit with over 700 caps between them, with a sell-out crowd of 72,000 expected for the first ever Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico.

It will be Barritt's first trip to the city. He admits he is keen to see the Coliseum, but there are other obvious priorities.

"It's all about the team's performance. Stuart has brought an attacking framework that allows us to express ourselves, and he's got a very good bond with Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell. The dynamic there is really good, and the players have bought into that culture."

Will England supporters see the more attacking side of his game this weekend?

"You rely on your team-mates to first of all dominate the set-piece and then guys maintaining the ball through contact. There are lot of things that need to happen throughout the team to get things moving in an attacking sense.

"As a player you just have to perform your role - if your team-mates are getting good clean ball and making yards then it turns into a good attacking display.

"For us it's all about improving, week in, week out."


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice interview, good to hear personal stuff about how players handle the emotion and events. I thought the lad did very well, would be nice to see what he can do with the ball in hand next game - definately a great prospect. ...and also sort of warming to know he's had a british passport since birth (as no doubt we'll get stick for having too many 'imports')

  • Comment number 2.

    Top blog Tom... For a while now, I've felt England has been crying out for young talent that loves the game, and in particular, playing it... Yes, rugby is about passion, and adrenaline, and at the highest level it's more important than life and death etc, but ultimately to succeed, differentiating between one set of highly capable athletes and another is the urgency and enthusiasm brought on by enjoyment and love of the game... Actually "Playing The Game" has been England's downfall, and why the flip chart "strategy" will always be beaten by urgency and enthusiasm when it matters most.
    The clearest way to spot this is when the likes of Toby Flood have to look to the bench for either inspiration or instruction...
    What I love about Barritt's comments is that 33 minutes went by in a flash - a sure sign that he's having a ball - good on him - and good on you...

  • Comment number 3.

    why bring it up steve, unless you have a guilty conscience? he played for the emerging springboks, his formative rugby years were in South Africa, he probably speaks with a south african accent, the passport keeps the border police at bay but he'll always be an import

  • Comment number 4.

    Really? Out of all that all you can talk about is his passport and where he happened to be born.
    Samatt4.....whats makes someone English, Scottish, Irish, or American?

    Funniest thing I have heard all day is my mate telling me that he didnt think Barritt was ready for the international step up. He has clearly shown his worth in defense, now lets see what he can do with good quality ball. probably worth noting my mate is a Gloucester supporter so maybe just sour grapes over Tindall!

    Good blog. Nice to hear from a man who is pasionate about rugby and proud to pull on the England jersey!

  • Comment number 5.

    Good piece. Defensively I thought Barritt was outstanding. There were a lot of good defensive showings. But I don't particularly want to see my outside centre making 17 hits a game.

    I am not convinced by the Sarries 10, 12, 13 channel - and before anyone thinks they should be given a chance - Sarries have the 6th highest amount of points in the premiership with only 1 try bonus point. Own Farrell has all but 71 of Sarries 208 points with 127 of his 137 coming from the boot. This combination is not new, coached by Farrell they have developed a style that is far from entertaining but far from ineffective.

    Barritt was superb - but reminded me a bit of Jamie Noon (some people may think this is harsh but Noon never let England down defensively). This is how Sarries play - but I fear this is not the way it should work at International level - we need more flair to break the oppo down offensively. The Sarries formula is not an international weapon, and asking Hodgson, Farrell and Barritt (12 for Sarries) to play differently for England then go back to their clubs and return to what they know does not strike me as being ideal - or even possible.

    Tuilagi makes this back line when he returns, but Playing Hodgson 10 and Farell 12 is a completely different game to playing Hodgson/Farrell at 10 and Tuilagi at 12.

    International level is about formulating a game plan and then picking the players to fit. We can't go from a tactical/aimless kicking game to one where we play a running 12 - and where does that leave Barritt when Tuilagi returns.

    I would prefer to see one of Hodgson/Farrell at 10, then Turner Hall or Barritt at 12. This allows us to develop the game plan that fits Tuilagi's return and the way England should be playing - this leaves Barritt, Turner Hall, Tuilagi, Banahan (if needs be), Twelvetrees (one day), Allen to fit into a similar 12 style game.

    Finding a 13 is the tough mission - but we can't hide from that. Barritt is not a 13, nor is Tuner Hall, and Tuilagi makes a much much better 12. We need base and guile at 13, Hopper, Lowe of quins, and ultimately Joseph of Irish when he is ready.

    Hopefully we shall see a bit more expansive game against the Italians. However, if I were them, I would feel this is possibly one of the best opportunities they have ever had to beat England.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm aware I'm probably setting myself up for abuse, but it is very worrying that England's seemingly best option at centre at the moment is South African (well, Rhodesian and therefore English by way of colony for passport purposes). That's not the issue though, and all jokes aside, why is there such a paucity of production when it comes to centres in the English clubs? Its only hurting the national game, and for a country with supposedly such a large player base, it seems odd that we have a situation developing similar to Wales or Ireland in recent years, where we are dependent on key players always being fit to have any chance of competing?

    Having said that, I feel having players such as Barritt around in the premiership can only improve younger players coming through - its happening at Saracens already, where the influx of saffers has added steel to Sarries' play, and the youngsters coming through are learning good skills from them. Examples in Ireland and Wales prove the value of having foreign players in your squad - there's a generation of players who learnt their skills alongside players such as Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Isa Nacewa, Christian Cullen, David Lyons, Ruan Pienaar etc, and we're starting to see the fruit of their development now - Wales have plenty of options throughout the squad, mostly young players, and Ireland do as well (if they ever chose to pick them). I think soon (if not already) we may start to see a similar breed of player emerging who could form part of the spine of the English national side. Here's hoping, anyway...

    Finally, and this is out of genuine curiosity, but can anyone explain why Shingler was ruled ineligible to play for Scotland on the basis that he'd played for the Wales A (U20) side, whereas Barritt is allowed to play for England having played for the Springboks' A side (emerging Springboks). Genuinely don't understand what the rules for eligibility are - presumably Shingler also had claims to both Scottish and Welsh nationality, not dissimilar to Barritt having both English and SA passports (I assume he has a SA one)? If anyone can explain it'd be appreciated!

  • Comment number 7.

    Really good interview with the man. Was a rock last week and its good to see someone take pride in his defensive skills. he obviously really wanted to play for the country and it seems clear that he feels English so that is enough for me.

    Lets just hope we see a bit more of his and Farrells attacking threat this week. Hopefully, if last week is anything to go on, the Italians will far more open to a running game.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 5:Tinoflyer: I think Barritt has to be given a bit of let off in some ways. He has been palying all season at 12 and now Enganld decide to stick him at 13. I dont fully understand this. Farrell at 13 would be better as its what they have played all season. However you do raise the issue that England lack a 13. Is Tuilagi a 13 or 12? I would like to see him played at 13 with Barritt at 12. Farrell on the bench for Hodgson (until Flood returns).

    @6 Londonwelsh:It is a mystery why we have for many years lacked top class centres. Something to be addressed at a lower level. Lancaster et al can oly deal with the current top players. If no good centres emerge then what can they do?
    In reference to the eligibility aspect. Its a mess. The IRB need to sort it out. I would guess when Barritt played for the Emerging Springboks they were not counted as the "second" team, more a development side like England U20 which does not tie you to that country. Wales used their U20s as their "second" team, thus tying Shingler to them.

  • Comment number 9.

    @7: The Scots love killing English ball, bringing it down to an arm wrestle usually. We didnt see much from the Scottish centres either. So its not jsut that England couldnt get them involved, or that they were lacking.

  • Comment number 10.

    Londonwelsh the only reason shingler is tied to Wales is because that game was given full international status. Where as A sides or England Saxons are not given this status. Therefore not tying the player to that country.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry I ment u20's the same applies for this also. Sorry for the confusion

  • Comment number 12.

    @ red rose faithful: are you saying saxons and u20s are not given full international status?

  • Comment number 13.

    Full international status is when you earn a cap you dont earn caps until you represent at full international. They are classed as development games thus preparing the players with international experience. But they are not full internationals

  • Comment number 14.

    But you are tied to a nation before earning a full cap. Second string sides ie England Saxon, Irish Wolfhounds.......whilst not earning you a cap, by playing for thme you are commiting to that nation.
    Wales dont currently have an A side. So used their U20s as their Second string side and as such the IRB said it would have the same affect for those playing in it. I don't think he earner a full international cap for that game.
    Apparently Shingler was not made aware of this before playing.

  • Comment number 15.

    You are correct I got myself all confused sorry been along day. Thank you for putting my post correct. I think shingler was awear but he didn't sign the declaration, so to keep his options open to play for Scotland or England as I believe. Maybe you could comfirm this for me lol as my posts have been not the best.

  • Comment number 16.

    @ 15

    What I understand of it is that he didn't sign the declaration and he thought this would make him eligible to play for Scotland or England. But because of the issues with the U20s being Wales' second team this overruled the lack of a signature.

  • Comment number 17.

    Thank you liverpaul thought it was something that.

  • Comment number 18.

    It just seems like it was a big mess up by should ahve been clear what the implications of the game were before it happen so it didnt come down to "oh but I didn't sign anything".

  • Comment number 19.

    Nice bog Tom. Barrit seems like a good lad and certainly had a solid game in defence but it's a little early I suspect for any long term prognosis. Certainly he put some fierce hits in and he lacks nothing in heart but would be play if Manu was fit? Likewise with Farell. Solid enough start but nothing more at this point.

    The renaissance of English rugby I'd like to think would be borne out of attacking notions and therein lies my slight reservation. Preventing tries will doubtless save games but we need to build a line who can break the gain line as well as defend it. Perhaps we have one already: certainly with the strike runners in the current side we ought to be capable of scoring tries so let's hope the boys continue to develop and progress.

    As for 'ownership' I'm not surprised to see samatt stirring the pot. Perhaps our SA cousins should consider their own European heritage however and accept that traditional notions are outdated in an increasingly global age. Indeed referring to barrit as an 'import' speaks volumes I'd suggest.

    Petty notions aside, roll on the weekend! I have a feeling the Italians will provide a stern test at the Stadio Olympico and it should make for a fine spectacle ;)

  • Comment number 20.

    @ 18

    Agree with you about that, and surely there must have been someone from the RFU with knowledge of the implications of him playing in that match??

  • Comment number 21.

    @19: Generally agree with you. It is early to tell quite how good he is. But so far so good. With Barritt at 12 and Tuilagi at 13 and the back 3 we have, we have a very potent attack, and a solid defense!

    @20: Wasn't anything to do with the RFU, IRB and WRFU. ;)

  • Comment number 22.

    @ 21

    corrections. I meant the IRB!!

  • Comment number 23.

    @22: Glad you can be corrected on something.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great to see some new blood in the side - about time too. As an expat in NZ my son can play for any of the home nations and the ABs so I think people are getting too hung up on passports.

    Although I am disappointed that Charlie Hodgson (great club player who has always disappointed internationally) couldn't have been replaced by some young blood given that Flood will probably be number 1. Surely there is room for both Farrell and Freddie Burns...?

    While we're on Gloucester players, gutted that Narraway (player of the tour down here before Johnson put him in the cold), Olly Morgan (best technical full back in the league) and Henry Trinder (can pass, run AND kick???) have been sidelined by injury. The James Simpson-Daniel curse. Coincidentally of Gloucester.

    It does seem that Gloucester always have the best young players never to play for England. No wonder they all leave!

  • Comment number 25.

    I think I know why we never produce any decent centres..

    guys born in the Uk are too scrawny, generally, and not big and strong enough.
    I was born in SA to an English mum and played wing/centre at 6' and 14 stone (unfortunately before professionalism or I might have tried harder). I was generally stronger and faster than english kids, who grew up with no sun or biltong and on chips!

  • Comment number 26.

    @25: So if i was born in SA I would be taller and stronger? I think not (No offense to SA).
    And what has size got to do with good centres.......Tindall is hardly small, and he is a strong man. Banahan is a monster of a man. Twelvetrees is taller and heavier than you.......

    I would say England need to focus more on skill and speed in the centres, what we have lacked in recent years. We have had plenty of big a powerful centres.

    Brian O'Driscoll, one of the best 13s ever, not the biggest or the strongest man.

    I think you need to rethink your point!

  • Comment number 27.

    Oh and megee333..............6' and 14 stone does not sound particularly big to me......

  • Comment number 28.

    In the past, when teams got in England's face and forced them to play on the back foot they had no answer. Not so last weekend. I've often thought that if England could summon up some of that pride and spirit that the Celtic nations have shown, they could become a force to be reckoned with. A great start. Good luck Brad and the boys in Rome this weekend.

  • Comment number 29.

    Brad Barrit showed what he was capable of in his early days for the sharks in the super 15, so great to see that he is fulfilling that potential and getting the international recognition he deserves. A loss to sharks and bok rugby but hopefully he will stay fit, get a run in the team and do england proud!

  • Comment number 30.

    12000milesfromhome @ 24: Because the majority of the international side will always come from teams who actually win things. The reputation as chokers will follow a player from their club.

  • Comment number 31.

    One of the things that stood out for me against Scotland was better discipline by England. In the past when we have been on the back foot we have given away soft penalties which have allowed the opposition to turn away with easy points and regroup, forcing England to chase the game. I also think England have been penalised unfairly quite often.

    It was noticeable that there was a distinct effort to keep "hands off" and "roll away" which denied Scotland the chance to turn pressure in to points, which forced them to have to break the line in order to score, which of course they couldn't do.

    I feel this will be a telling aspect of this new England and whilst penalties will be conceded, it will not be with the same profligacy as in the past. Teams in this 6n's are going to have to do the hard yards and I don't think it will be that easy with this team.

    Always assuming of course we don't come against a ref with a point to prove.

  • Comment number 32.

    #26 I agree up to a point, just being big is not enough to make somebody a good centre, but it certainly helps. Even O'Driscoll (if wikipedia is accurate) is almost 15st - while he may not be the tallest, I certainly wouldn't describe him as "not the strongest".
    Yes we should focus on speed and skill, but size does matter. If you don't believe me, re-watch the Ireland vs Wales game, where the deciding factor was the additional size and power of the welsh backline.

    #24 Morgan is a very good full back, but even fit he is behind Foden and Brown. Narraway probably deserves to be in the England team, and Trinder also looks talented. The question is why do Gloucester produce so many talented players, and why do so few of them go on to fulfill their potential - Lamb and Allen both looked like they were going to be huge stars when they broke through, but never quite made it - think there was a young 13 came through at the same time whose name escapes me, as well.
    Simpson-Daniel would be a fixture in the England team if he could stay fit, problem is that he is such a talent that with his injury record, picking him for England would cause more problems that it would solve.

  • Comment number 33.

    As a matter of interest can Tm or anyone tell me: How many "imports", as they've been called, does the each of the 6 Nations countries have in their current squads. It concerns me that the development of young primary and secondary school aged players are not "home grown" and hence a need to address this at the grass-roots level. I also understand that there may be a rational for this in "developing" rugby nations as apposed to the higher long standing ones. Thank you.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sorry, when I posted Tm, I meant Tom Fordyce. Thanks.

  • Comment number 35.

    One thing I am thankful for is that England are finally using a 6N to blood new players, instead of waiting for a SH tour to bring in younger players.

    This approach has, without fail, left generation after generation of England players with deep psychological scars after a severe pummelling from the SH teams in their own back yard.

    With all due respect to Scotland and Italy, I'd much rather make my debut against them than the ABs.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great Blog Tom. Enjoying the debate about English backline. Agree Barritt is really a 12. I would like to see Foden play 13, with either Tuilangi or Barritt at 12 and Farrell at 10. Appreciate Foden has moved around quite a bit (in much the same way as Austin Healey did, because both are/were talented enough to play in a number of positions at international level) but 13 is where England need a spark/lack most depth/could arguably benefit most from Foden's game breaking talent.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good interview with a player with a bright future ahead of him. His performance against Scotland was a good show of his defensive strength but hopefully he'll grow in confidence with each cap and we'll see a more attacking role come Saturday.

    Having read Guscott's pre-game write up he says 'the days where England beat Italy by 50 points were in the Woodward era' well I know it wasn't by 50 but I can remember only last year where they won by 46 points so close enough. Sadly I don't think it will be anything like as big a scoreline tomorrow but I think it would take a lot for Italy to upset England.

    I guess the big question surronding Barritt's England future is if he can play with Tualagi, in deed will he selected for it? Tough one to call that really. They could be deemed to be too similar to play together, if Barrit has formed a good partnership with Farrell it could easily be deemed that it wouldn't be worth rocking the boat at this early stage of the England team.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great blog / interview Tom. Tinoflyer mentioned the comparison between Barritt and Jamie Noon. Jamie Noon... now there was a man who inspired his team mates through his defensive qualities. That game against France in 2008, where he hammered Cerdic Heymans, put in another big hit on the right, gashed his head open, play went left, came back right as he was been seen to, he shoved the doctor to she side, got up and put in another huge thumping tackle in the same play. Heroic performance.

    If Barritt can be this but bring more in attack then he'll be a rock for England.

  • Comment number 39.

    guys born in the Uk are too scrawny, generally, and not big and strong enough.

    That's why Wales have the biggest back line in the game atm.
    Aside from 1/2p, the smallest of them is Rhys Preistland, who's 6' and a tad under 14 stone. Our wingers are 6'4" and 6'6", our centers are 6'2 and 6'3 and our scrum half is 6'3". I'd say that was a massive set of backs.

    Our 1st choice second rows are 6'6" and 6'9". Our front row are all over 6'. Our backrow are all over 6'. That's a big set of lads in the forwards,possibly not the biggest, but comparable to any other team in the world....

  • Comment number 40.

    Ironically, given the prevailing weather conditions over the whole of Europe, Saturday's match will not be the usual near-shirtsleeve affair in the sunshine. It will be bitterly cold and I expect that the match will reflect that with tight play and plenty of passes dropped from cold fingers.

    The Italians are progressing again but they have always favoured a tight, forward orientated game. England's biggest threat lies in turning over defensive ball and/or conceding kickable penalties. If they can break out of the arm wrestle and get some of the speedsters into action then it could be very exciting. A decent win with a few well executed tries could do wonders for morale and confidence at such an embryonic stage.

    The match however is a very long way from a foregone conclusion. Italy will be tough to beat at home and, having turned France over at home last year, must really fancy their chances against a still-fragile England.

    England to win by one score!

  • Comment number 41.

    Does Brad Barritt really care about player for England apart from the money he will make? England have had this on many occasions from foreign players where they see making the England squad as a big pay cheque but they dont really lay their lives on the line for the red rose and they tend to fizzle out.
    For example the 2 Armitage brothers...started great until they made some money then they (esp Delon) seems like he couldnt care less if he gets a chance to wear the white jersey anymore. Same with Ricky Flutey, he started off as a fantastic player for England and once he got comfortable in the jersey and made some money he fell off the boil and looked like it ment nothing to him to be picked to represent England.

    I can see Barritt doing ok for a few years but he didnt look like he was loving the rugby in merryfield last week and why would sure he would much prefer to play for South Africa if he was good enough.

  • Comment number 42.

    Bit unfair on the Armitage brothers there don't you think? Put simply it's nothing to do them being too comfortable in an England shirt (crazy to talk about Steffon that way as he only had a few caps) but simply they've been eclipsed by better players. Steffon as mentioned was never really in the England selectors eyes for that long and Delon has been put in the shade both by his own dubious off the field antics and Foden and Brown showing much better form at club level.

    As for Barrit well the guy obviously shows a real commitment to England, as do guys like Manu Tualagi and Felatau do for their respective countries. Good luck to the guy and let's hope we see him have a good game tomorrow.

  • Comment number 43.

    #42 I dont think Delon Armitage got eclipsed at all. When he was playing well and hungry to play for England ye was every bit as good as Foden and would be pushing for that spot now had he maintained that level. I think he got comfortable and got cocky and then started acting like a yob. If he had cherished his place playing for England whether starting at 15 or on the bench..he wouldnt be acting like he is.

    I think what Lancester is doing is great, he made the parents of all the players write them a letter saying how proud of them they are to see their sons representing England and what it means. England need these core values brough back because as we seen at the last world cup very few on that team were proudly wearing that was like they were there on holiday and from their leaked comments there was certainly no pride amoung them.

  • Comment number 44.

    He's eligible to play for England - that's all that matters - the rest is narrow minded xenophobia. Solid performance last week - let's see some more, oh and er....a slither of creativity wouldn't go amiss

  • Comment number 45.

    Hey thats fine...ever since England became a super club buying players from all over the world they have been on a downward spiral...long may it continue and it wont change...not until they have pride again...and its impossible to have pride playing for a country other then your own.

    I enjoy seeing England struggle to beat the likes of the worst Scotish team in 50 years...Italy will probably prove even tougher...but good luck with your club.

  • Comment number 46.

    Dear Son,

    Thanks for representing England, a country that the majority of your fellow citizens hate with a passion. It's great that you're giving us a suppliment to our pension.

    Your Mum and Dad.

    P.S. if you can get us som Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers - the ones here don't taste as nice.

  • Comment number 47.

    Fair enough James. Good luck to the Welsh as well this weekend. Especially Toby Faletau, remind me again he was born just outside of Aberystwyth wasn't he? Anyway hopefully Wales can keep 15 players on the pitch this time and string together 2 decent performances in a row, something we haven't seen in a while.

    Italy will certainly be a challenge they're a steadily improving side and are especially tricky at home, as Wales can attest to after they struggled there last year. Still hopefully we can take it and stop this downward spiral. I mean it's been a whole year since we won a major trophy.

    Telstra I imagine we'll see more creativity from the England new boys as the tournament progresses. Last week they came up against a determined Scotland side, one I actually think its their best in a while rather than worst for 50 years, and I think were more concentrating on not getting anything wrong. Fortunately they won a game in what is the toughest place for any England side to travel to and hopefully it will keep going this week but it's definitely one game at a time at the moment.

  • Comment number 48.

    39 bentyger Yes Wales certainly have some big guys. Let's see how they fare in the rest of 6N. One extremely narrow and somewhat fortunate win hasn't proved anything yet. North looked good but some pretty woeful Irish tackling. Have these giants got what it takes in the long term and are they good enough to beat the best in the world in the SH, something Wales have not been able to do for a very very long time. I will start to be impressed when they string some good wins together against SH opposition like England did in the naughties.

  • Comment number 49.

    LastKing great post. I am sure the Norfolk born boy wonder Gorgeous George North will do his adopted country proud again. I think Mr Mathew is a touch too chirpy. I would be happy to help him remember the many interesting welsh losses over the years and the total inability to beat SH opposition home or away.

  • Comment number 50.

    That is the real test isn't numbnuts? I know France beat New Zealand a couple of times, England picked up back to back wins over Australia plus Ireland beat them at the world cup, plus there's been the odd win over South Africa but no northern hemisphere team has regualarly beaten the southern hemisphere sides since the world cup winning England team. Sadly I think we're all quite a way off from that.

  • Comment number 51.

    CornishPirate @ 36

    Moving Foden to 13 sounds interesting, but one of the problems we have had at finding an outside centre in particular, is a seemingly stubborn belief that anyone can play there.

    It is a specialist position and requires experience and understanding. For too long we have moved creative players to 13 because they can do a job on the wing or at Full Back.

    Tuilagi for me is a 12, I like his angles, is bulk - he can do the crash ball but importantly he can break the gain line and that is when you need some explosive power at 13 to see the gap created and be able to do something about it.

    Sticking a lump like an ageing Tindall, Banahan, Hape or converting a 14/15 like Tait or a Foden, Cohen was tried for Northampton - shows a lack of understanding about the skill required for a 13.

    Simpson Daniel has performed brilliantly there for Gloucester, and Hopper and Lowe at Quins are progressing nicely.

    Farrell is only a 13 in an exceptionally stifled club game where winning is achieved with a well honed game plan with all the right players getting used to a particular system. It is also dull as dishwater.

    I have no idea why we have gone back to Hodgson - he was once again caught in the headlights against Scotland - who incidently failed remarkably to send Sean Lamont down his channel - the most destructive centre in the 6n last year and they kept throwing miss passes to De Luca.

    That's like walking past your Land Rover Discovery to take your Fiat Panda 4x4 up a challenging mountain path.

    Very odd.

  • Comment number 52.

    LastKing I think you are certainly right. But ah those memories are enough to warm me on a freezing day!

  • Comment number 53.

    I think a lot of the potential quality three quarters in england are playing Football unfortunately

  • Comment number 54.

    James @ 45.

    I always admire the optimism of the Welsh camp when they win a game, or come very close to not losing against one of the big teams.

    A last minute kick away from losing to Ireland and the Welsh bandwagon rolls on - the same bandwagon that lost to Sth Africa, Australia, and France at the world cup, and to the worst England team in the world cup warm ups.

    As for where players come from, if it is in the laws, don't complain - I certainly don't hear the Welsh complaining when it works for them.

    When it is outside the laws however, that is a different matter - Sinkinson and Howarth ring a bell?

    As for forcing Shingler to play for Wales when he really does not want to - shocking.

  • Comment number 55.

    #45, the welsh squad is not short of the odd import either. Obviously Faletau is Tongan, North, Jon Davies and Cuthbert were born in England, and Ian Evans is a South African. Wales also tried to recruit Ben Morgan.

    Of course nobody comes close to Shane Howarth, who played for Wales despite having no Welsh relatives (other than an imaginary grandmother), and, at the time of his debut, never having lived in the country.

  • Comment number 56.

    @32 Dr_John_B: I completely understand that strength is a massive attribute for a centre. And I did not mean to make out that O'Driscoll was weak, but he isnt as big or strong as Nonu or Roberts. The OP put too much emphasis on size and strength over skill.

  • Comment number 57.

    @ 36 CornishPirate: Why would you take one of Englands most consistant and best performer and play them out of position? Foden is a tallent, but I do not believe he would be as effective at 13. As well as not properly solved the 13 issue we would have weakened our 15. Keep Foden where he is playing well.

  • Comment number 58.

    @41 James Mathew trust you to make a silly post.

    Did it occur to you that sometimes players lose form? no matter who they play for?

    Sounds like you could still be bitter from the weekend.


  • Comment number 59.

    And can people bore off the the nationality debate. No team is acting out of the IRB rules.........apart from maybe Scotland with Shingler ;)

  • Comment number 60.

    Rf_41@53 - As Jon Mcenroe said you can't be serious! Do you seriously think that a footballer could hack it as a rugby player! I needed surgery as I split my sides laughing at your post. You are obviously, as Ray Winstone would say, aving a larf!!!

  • Comment number 61.

    @54 and @55: the point isn't that England aren't the only ones who use 'foreign' players - pretty much every country has used 'imports' at some point or another. Wales were certainly using a lot of them in the late 90s and early 2000s. The point IS however that in a country such as England, which has by far the biggest player base (no matter how what extent anyone tries to deny it), surely there just shouldn't be any need for it? Smaller nations may have a need for them to compete, or in emerging nations such as Italy (still second tier although improving rapidly now) and Japan they provide a platform for rapid improvement and to increase interest in the game until the country's own playing population can provide a competitive team.

    As for 'loyalty,' Shingler has already played for Wales U20s, so he's kind of already declared his hand surely? If Barritt really is as keen as he says he is to play for England then in all honesty, good luck to him. For me however, once a player has played at any age group or in any representative side for a country, then that is where their allegiance should lie. Riki Flutey played for the NZ Maori, Vainikolo for Rugby League (in my opinion the sport shouldn't matter, but admittedly that is my opinion so you're welcome to disagree!), players like Luke McLean played for an AUssie age group before playing for Italy. Personally, it makes a mockery of the whole system for players native to that country, desperate to play but who can't because someone who's already played for another country is ahead of them (often a short-term fix as well, in cases such as Hape/Vainikolo.

    But having said all that, Martin Johnson played NZ age groups before returning to England, so it works both ways - just as with everything else in sport, it evens itself out in the end!

  • Comment number 62.

    First of all, there is no such continent as Australasia, that is just what people from Australia call Oceania!
    I digress, barritt and his desperate dan chin had an awesome game. It will be interesting to see how he and the back line perform when given more opportunity to attack. It could be a case of horses for courses, much like it was wit joe worsley

  • Comment number 63.

    I meant with not wit-stupid touch phones ;-)

  • Comment number 64.

    Surprise surprise, the old issue is raised again. Two points to make here, the first is someone suggests having a bigger player base should stop you using "imports" as he calls them. So where do you draw the line? What makes a big player base? Rightly or wrongly, few players come from the lower tiers of the pyramid, which consists of the vast majority of players. They are usually identified at school and enter at the higher levels, which, numerically speaking are not much bigger than countries with much smaller rugby-playing populations.
    Secondly, what gives someone a certain nationality and makes one want to represent a (their) country? Birth place? Parent(s)? Grandparent(s)? Upbringing and at what age? It's a minefield, the rules have been agreed internationally and as long as they are adhered to, please stop whining about it.

  • Comment number 65.

    As ever with a new team, set up etc its exciting to see how it develops. Hoping for a win of course but one without the very poor quality of rugby that was on display last weekend from England.

    Can Dowson retain the 8 spot for long? Can England afford to retain defensively weak players in Strettle and Hodgson for long? No to all three I think.

  • Comment number 66.

    #56, fair comment, there is far too much emphasis on size and power in the modern game. However it is still a big factor - the classic example being Sunday where the arguably quicker and more skillfull Irish backs got bulldozed by a bigger stronger Welsh backline.
    I would far rather watch teams with Simpson-Daniel style backs, but equally if you can get a big lump running on to the ball at pace, it is still effective. The trick is finding a balance between size, strength and skill - O'Driscoll has plenty of all 3.

  • Comment number 67.

    Barritt defended with real fire last weekend, and I hope he can hold on to his place for a long time, it is about time England tried to develop some good centres.

    As for the nationality question, yes he was born in RSA, but with Zimbabwean parents of directly English origin, I would not be surprised if he considers him self as English rather than African

  • Comment number 68.

    Barritt seems a nice guy - just not likely to be an international class centre (for England or SA)...ever. Infact the whole side under Lancaster seem to be behaving & playing rather like a bunch of college freshers/VIth formers. We (England) look like we'll never ever dominate any aspect of game-play again. Very disappointing thus far.


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