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20-year-old can become the 'new' Brad Barritt for club and country

By Chris Jones
Brad Barritt smashes Quade Cooper (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Steve Borthwick believes Leicester youngster Dan Kelly can become as vital for club and country as former England centre Brad Barritt as Eddie Jones searches for the right combination to solve a worrying lack of mid-field impact in the Six Nations campaign.

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Kelly has been in impressive form for Leicester and the 20-year-old has already been capped by England against Canada in July and Borthwick, the Leicester head coach, sees the same kind of attributes in his young centre that made Barritt crucial to Saracens domination of European rugby and won him 26 England caps.

With Manu Tuilagi’s recurring injury problems and Ollie Lawrence, of Worcester, also beset by injury setbacks, Jones needs a reliable mid-field option who can bust a defence and pick clever attacking lines.

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Borthwick has no doubt that Kelly has a big future and said: “Brad Barritt delivered consistency for years and he would be an excellent role model for Dan with the way he played the game. Brad played with such commitment at a consistently high level of performance. Dan is a young guy who 18 months ago was playing at Loughborough University and worked incredibly hard to establish himself in the 12 shirt and you probably miss how good a communicator he is on the pitch.

Kelly Leicester Saracens
Dan Kelly made his England debut in the summer (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“Brad was a brilliant communicator and gave clarity and energy to all those around him and Dan has some of those traits and plenty of time to develop them. Dan is a guy who had a pretty big setback coming through another club’s academy system (Sale Sharks) and didn’t get offered the chance to stay there and what did he do? He went to Loughborough and continued to drive his rugby ambitions and he has come and grabbed an opportunity here with both hands. He deserves a lot of credit for the resilience he has shown and the character to keep working and grow as quickly as he has.

“The challenge for Dan now is to continue that rate of development and if he stays hungry to work then he will. Dan is doing really good work with Kevin Sinfield at the club on defence a with Richard Wigglesworth and Matt Smith on attack. He is a young man who is going to get even better.”

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