Brad Barritt believes the support of key members of the double-winning Saracens leadership team will ensure Owen Farrell handles the pressure of the England captaincy as he attempts to guide his country to glory at the World Cup in Japan.
Farrell’s form has been patchy in the warm-up Tests for the tournament, one of England’s truly world-class players switching from inside centre to outside half as head coach Eddie Jones attempted to identify his best midfield combination.
Chris Robshaw’s Test captaincy was defined by England’s failure to get out of their pool while hosting the 2015 World Cup, with key decisions he made being put under relentless scrutiny. This is the pressure Farrell will now have to deal with in a pool containing France, Argentina, Tonga and USA.
A member of the 2015 England squad, Barritt captained Saracens to the Heineken Cup and Premiership double last season and understands the weight that is now on Farrell’s shoulders.
He told RugbyPass: “It is never down to one person. Owen is spearheading the leadership force but ultimately you have to surround yourself with other great leaders and he has the benefit of the core of the Saracens leadership group with him.
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“Owen leads from the front and will have great guys with experience around him and it’s about using that because you cannot have a foothold in every facet of the game. You need people to boss the lineout and dictate at the scrum and you need those voices around you. He knows that better than anyone.”
Those call-ups mean the Londoners’ squad depth will be tested at the start of the English domestic season. However, the arrival of Damian Willemse from the Stormers gives Saracens an outstanding talent who can play out-half and full-back even though he may still be called into the Springbok World Cup squad if injury strikes.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 11, 2019
Barritt is excited to see Willemse at the club, believing Saracens can help turn him into an even better player thanks to the different style of rugby in the Premiership that requires a more structured approach and a quick understanding of the defensive structure and kick-chase strategy.
With Max Malins and England’s Alex Goode injured, Willemse solves a brewing crisis at No10. Barritt said: “Damian had his first training session with at the start of this week and he is a very exciting talent and is someone who has played at No10 and full-back.
“He is an immensely skilful player who we welcome with open arms and it is a win-win all round. We have the benefit of an incredible talent, a great young player with a fantastic future ahead of him, and he has the opportunity to work on a few different things than he would face playing in South Africa.
“I hope he will go back a wiser and more rounded player from this experience because anyone who comes over to the UK realises that the game is played in a slightly different way and it requires different skills. The Stormers and Western Province will hopefully benefit from the next couple of months from Damian’s progression. On the flip side, we are going to benefit from a really talented player joining us.
“It’s obviously disappointing that Max Malins is injured having come on leaps and bounds last season. He was looking good in pre-season before getting injured and is out for some time. Alex Goode should be back in training from his foot injury in a couple of weeks and is on the mend.”
Willemse has joined what Barritt calls a “fresh-faced squad” where new combinations will be needed for the Premiership Cup which is taking place as a lead-in tournament before the delayed start to the Premiership. “It’s a fresh-faced squad at the moment. In terms of this early part of the season, the word we are using around the club is ‘opportunity’ because we have a great academy system.
“These guys may not have been given as much of a chance as they would have liked because the starting XV has been so successful. Now, we can unearth the next generation of talent and they can put a marker down for the rest of the season. The squad has come on leaps and bounds.”
WATCH: The RugbyPass stadium guide to Sapporo where England will open their World Cup campaign against Tonga
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