LONDON: Brad Barritt, regarded as the rock of the England squad, has brought a sense of perspective to the furore surrounding the hosts ahead of their decisive Pool A clash with Australia on Saturday.
England know they are in serious danger of going out of Rugby World Cup 2015 if they fail to beat the Wallabies at Twickenham. After a week of criticism from former players and the media, the pressure is mounting on coach Stuart Lancaster and his squad.
The largest number of reporters so far turned up at England’s Bagshot training camp on Thursday for the team announcement. Prince Harry, honorary president of England 2015, attended training and the talk was peppered with highly-charged words such as ‘pressure’, ‘high stakes’ and ‘ramifications’.
Barritt, however, brought everybody down to earth in the time, and style, he uses to make one of his trademark, crunching tackles.
Living the dream
“When you look around the world, there are tragedies. Ultimately we are living the dream. And if you don’t seize it, it will pass you by,” he said.
“We won’t be having regrets when we look back. We are definitely going to be throwing the kitchen sink at this. We know this game is bigger than last week (against Wales) because it affects the outcome of the tournament. It is about keeping fire in your belly and ice in your head.”
Lancaster, who admits that the match is the biggest of his career, was happy to welcome the creative Jonathan Joseph back into his line-up to partner South-African born Barritt after the centre missed the Wales game because of a chest injury.
“It was a big blow to lose him last week. To have him back in the side is a huge positive,” Lancaster said.
England have kept Owen Farrell at fly-half with George Ford on the bench together with rugby league convert Sam Burgess, who started the match against Wales at inside centre. Barritt will play inside centre with Joseph outside.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs, who was impressive against Wales, passed a fitness test on an injured ankle and will start the match. Number eight Nick Easter, 37, has made the bench after joining the squad at the start of the week to replace Billy Vunipola, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament.
The team has an average age of just 26 years 350 days, England’s fourth youngest in all RWC matches. Only the teams that played against Tonga, Italy and Fiji at RWC 1999 were younger.
Lancaster, meanwhile, has been keen to keep the ramifications of defeat away from the squad.
“If we don’t win, we don’t qualify for the next stage. But I have to make sure the players are not focusing on the size of the game,” Lancaster said.
“You don’t take the players beyond Saturday. I am not going beyond this game. There are a lot of things to play out in the next two weeks. If you concentrate on the what ifs, you are not doing your job.”