sport

Barritt content to fly under radar

If Brad Barritt is frustrated by his lack of recognition as the most influential member of England's midfield, he refuses to acknowledge it.

When Manu Tuilagi was passed fit for Sunday's 12-6 RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland, the consensus was that the unflashy Barritt would be demoted to accommodate the Leicester Tiger and the freshly-capped Billy Twelvetrees.

To England's coaching team, however, the South African-born 26-year-old's organisation, defence and leadership are viewed as indispensable, resulting in Tuilagi's selection on the bench.

Barritt's impact on a match may be subtler than the defence-wrecking Tuilagi, but an under-rated player whose talents are appreciated inside the squad more than out values his own adaptability.

"No, not at all was I irritated when people said Manu and Billy should play," the Saracens centre said.

"As a player, especially playing for England, there's always the pressure to get in the side and that's never changed.

"Each week you build the respect of the players around you and grow into the role in the team.

"It's a huge honour to play for England. As long as I'm involved I'm a very happy man.

"You always want to play a key role in the side. I like to think of myself as someone who is very adaptable

"When we have that attacking element I can play a big role in the team's attacking game, but also be a calm voice and take a lead in defence when matches are tight.

"I like to see myself as being adaptable to what the game is."

Victories over Scotland and Ireland has placed England at the summit of the Six Nations table as the only team capable of winning the Grand Slam, a prize they last claimed in 2003.

Adding to their commanding position in the championship is their ability to vary their game with the four tries scored against the Scots contrasting with the hard-nosed approach taken in Dublin.

Ireland were more experienced and expected to be wiser in the conditions, but it was Stuart Lancaster's side that showed encouraging maturity and composure to triumph on an afternoon when it was better not to have the ball.

"The level of execution needed to produce a performance like that in tough conditions underpins everything we've been doing as a team and shows how far we've come," Barritt said.

"The composure was a key element that we spoke about before the game. We knew the Irish would be buoyant with the home crowd behind them and that our composure and discipline would keep us in it.

"It was obviously key with our exits, getting out of our own half and then applying pressure and taking points when they were on offer. It was a very satisfying result.

"In rugby you always have to adapt, whether it's to the conditions or the opposition you're playing against. You have to have that ability to change how you play and execute.

"We've shown that when the weather's good we can play an attacking style, but when the conditions are tough and we need to grind out a win, the team are willing to do that and are capable of executing it.

"The New Zealand win is still a very special memory because they are world champions and the level of performance we reached.

"Winning in Ireland is something we hadn't done in 10 years. It was a huge monkey we needed to get off our backs and it has given us a huge amount of confidence going away from home and producing the result."

Outside the England camp the Grand Slam is being spoken of with greater conviction, inside it players and coaches are refusing to look beyond their next match against France on February 23.

Italy and Wales await in the following weeks and a team that prides themselves on their humility will not be tainted by their growing success.

"That's always been our strength. We've said from the outset that we'll take it game by game," Barritt said.

"A key that's underpinned the culture of the team is our humility and ability to keep our feet on the ground.

"We are far away from the finished article, are ever evolving and ever improving.

"We know that France will have a resurgent team out for an English scalp, so we'll have to be better if we are to continue the winning momentum."