Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has paid a glowing tribute to Brad Barritt, the former England midfielder who bowed out of European rugby with Saracens’ 19-15 Champions Cup semi-final loss to Racing on Saturday.

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The 34-year-old Durban-born centre is due to retire at the end of the 2019/20 season and he would have hoped the October 17 European final would provide him with a fitting farewell rather than Saracens’ final match in the Premiership next weekend before their relegation to the Championship.

However, the attempt by the London club to win a fourth Champions Cup in five seasons came a cropper in Paris, Racing pouncing for the decisive late try to win with Barritt having left the action on 65 minutes after getting injured when tackling Finn Russell with his team 15-9 ahead.

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Former All Blacks back row Jerome Kaino guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview show

The defeat brought to an end to Barritt’s 67-game career in Europe which stretched back over a dozen seasons and O’Driscoll, speaking post-game on BT Sport, was quick to recognise the contribution of the retiring Barritt and also the efforts of Richard Wigglesworth, the veteran scrum-half, who is also departing.

“Like them or loathe them, those two players, in particular, have been stalwarts of Saracens, European rugby and Premiership rugby. They have put their bodies on the line like very few others,” said O’Driscoll.

“You have got the cunning and the nous of Wigglesworth but Brad Barritt, I don’t know if you can find a more heroic captain, leader and figure in the European game. You think about where he puts his head where others wouldn’t their feet and he has done it for ten plus years.

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“It’s a sad sight to see him go off the game not on his terms but he can hold his head high and he has put in another incredible shift today and what a career he has had for Saracens.”

Fellow BT pundit Lawrence Dallaglio suggested Barritt’s exit from the semi-final was a huge momentum swing in tipping the outcome the way of Racing. “I thought the turning point was maybe when Brad Barritt went off for Saracens, their captain and their leader, and (Maxime) Machenaud came on for Racing. There just seemed to be a momentum shift. There was a six-point gap between the sides and there was that momentum shift.

“Then how about this? If you’re going to win a semi-final with a piece of skill, (you do it with) the combination of Finn Russell and (Virimi) Vakatawa, which Saracens had kept quiet until the 76th minute. It’s not just the quality of the kick, but he (Russell) keeps it far enough away from Wigglesworth for Vakatawa to catch, gather and then the one-handed offload.

“It’s cruel for Saracens because they had one foot on the final but you just felt earlier on in the game there were chances for Saracens to finish Racing off and they didn’t manage to do that. They kept within one score and when you do that there is always a danger with the quality that they have got that they can come up with something.”

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