Brad Barritt interview: ‘Ben Earl deserves England reward after outrageously good season for Saracens’
Brad Barritt has tipped Ben Earl to make a long-awaited England breakthrough this summer.
Earl has dominated Premiership proceedings at Saracens in the last two seasons, but has yet to cement a place in England’s back-row.
The 25-year-old has been named in the official Premiership team of the year for the second campaign running, having won the player of the year award last term.
Earl has 15 caps but is yet to win over new boss Steve Borthwick – but his former Saracens team-mate Barritt is completely convinced of the physical flanker’s quality.
Earl will lead Saracens’ charge into Saturday’s Premiership semi-final showdown with old rivals Northampton at StoneX Stadium, with ex-England centre Barritt effusive in his praise.
“I have no doubts about Ben’s abilities with England,” Barritt told Standard Sport.
“He’s been knocking on that door for so long, and there has to be an element sometimes of the patience you have to have, and that eventually paying off.
“You have to stay patient. But when he gets his chance, I have no doubt that he will take it. Ben’s an incredibly explosive player, he’s got a huge engine and an enormous work rate, and he’s actually an 80-minute player.
“I think we’ll see him getting an England shirt in the very near future, and I think he has the backing of a very strong core group of senior players who see him doing it week in and week out.
“Ben has been on a different level again this year, he’s been outrageously good.”
Saracens will contest their 13th semi-final of the play-off era this weekend, with the Men In Black fully re-established after their salary cap breach enforced 2020 relegation.
Alex Goode, Owen Farrell and Jamie George are still going strong as five-time Premiership and three-time European champions, as Sarries continue to evolve into a new era.
Barritt was on hand for those eight glittering triumphs before retiring in 2020, and the tough centre sees a bright new future ahead for his old club.
The Premiership’s recent financial woes has seen English clubs struggle to keep pace with their French counterparts, but Barritt believes Saracens can drive back to Champions Cup glory in the coming years.
“There’s a way that a Saracens player goes about his day, it’s an overall excitement to be part of something bigger,” said Barritt.
“And the ability to take the punishment of relegation, bounce back and be in a Premiership final, and now consecutive play-offs, is massive.
“Europe is obviously a different challenge, even over my time at Saracens it was something where you had to earn your stripes and earn your pedigree.
“Back in 2008 when I joined we were only in the Challenge Cup, we then qualified, reached a quarter-final, a semi-final, we lost in a final and then another semi-final.
“You learn every time you go into those big games of what’s required to win on the big stage. It’s a step up and it’s played a little differently, especially when you are away in France.
“So, again, a few things need to fall in your favour, and you need to ensure every time you get the opportunity that it’s a learning phase. But I have no doubt that Saracens will get back to that level in the near future.”
Mark McCall was named director of rugby of the season for the fifth time in this year’s Premiership awards, with Saracens delivering a flawless home record en route to topping the regular-season table.
Barritt hailed the quietly-spoken Ulsterman’s genius as his humility and relentless work rate.
“Mark lives and breathes the job, it’s a 24-7, 365 role for him,” said Barritt. “But beyond that he comes with absolutely no ego, he always puts the team first.
“He’s done an incredible job of galvanising the forces around him. He’s not scared to utilise the skillsets of the coaches or players around him, and he doesn’t crave the limelight.
“And that’s truly proven within a coaching group that’s probably tighter than any other in the Premiership. There’s an open approach of shared collaboration among players and staff to drive the team forward.
“He’s been through many evolutions at Saracens and has been the fulcrum of that relentless approach, to make sure the club’s in a better position.”
Barritt put his body through more punishment than most in a club and Test career best characterised by his team-mates’ absolute belief in his dominant midfield qualities.
Now the South African managing director of Fintech firm Pollinate, Barritt has negotiated the tricky transition to life beyond rugby with as much aplomb as he did his former career.
“This has been an amazing opportunity to move to Cape Town and spearhead the business here,” said Barritt.
“My kids can get to know their cousins and grandparents, but the UK side of the business means I can get back to England and stay in touch with my old team-mates.”
BT Sport is the home of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Watch exclusive live coverage of both semi-finals on BT Sport this weekend, including Saracens v Northampton Saints on BT Sport 2 from 3pm on Saturday. Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers is live on BT Sport 1 from 2:30pm on Sunday. Visit btsport.com/rugby