sport

Barritt: England still a threat

Brad Barritt has insisted England can still be an attacking threat without Manu Tuilagi.

Tuilagi is sidelined for Saturday's Calcutta Cup match against Scotland, with Billy Twelvetrees poised to make his England debut alongside Barritt in a reshuffled midfield.

England are a substantially more dangerous side with Tuilagi in midfield, averaging nearly twice as many points scored when the destructive Leicester midfielder plays.

In England's record triumph over New Zealand, Tuilagi scored one try and played a key role in those scored by Barritt and Chris Ashton as Stuart Lancaster's men romped to a 38-21 triumph.

Twelvetrees is a different animal. He is a powerful defender but more of a ball-player than a bludgeon and Barritt is confident they can strike up an immediate rapport.

"Manu is a fantastic player and he is an asset to any team - but no team is reliant on one person," Barritt said.

"We have known for a couple of weeks he wouldn't be involved.

"That has allowed us to build the partnerships and I think people will be straight up to the mark straight away."

If Twelvetrees is confirmed in England's starting line-up on Thursday, it is likely to be at inside centre with Barritt shifting into the 13 jersey.

Barritt began his England career at outside centre last year but being one position further out will ask different questions of his role as the team's defensive leader.

It may well be that Barritt defends at inside centre while Twelvetrees fills the role in attack, where he offers both a kicking game and the handling skills of a fly-half.

"Wherever the team needs me I am happy to fill that role, whether it is 12 or 13," Barritt said.

"There are slightly different variations to how the game can be played.

"You are probably not making as many tackles per game at 13. There is more organisation to be done but fewer tackles to be made."

The autumn internationals, particularly the win against New Zealand which brought his first Test try, were a career highlight for Barritt.

But England have long stopped basking in the glory of that December day - the challenge ahead of them is to keep improving on it.

England have won their last three matches against Scotland, but none of them by more than a converted try and Barritt expects another ferocious battle on Saturday.

"Every England-Scotland game over the years is a tightly contested affair," Barritt said.

"They will go out of their way to spoil any quick ball and tempo you can get. We need to ensure that ball is quick in order for us to play.

"There is a confidence within the squad. We have been together for a year and the team realises that one performance doesn't have any bearing on the following week. There is no time to settle.

"We need to be up at that mark as quickly as possible.

"We expect a hugely contested, physical onslaught in that breakdown.

"There is no better exponent than Kelly Brown."

Barritt is delighted to see Brown, his Saracens club-mate, captaining Scotland after recovering from a broken leg he suffered on Heineken Cup duty in Treviso 12 months ago.

"He will lead from the front," Barritt said.

"He had a terrible injury. He has been dedicated to come back as quickly as possible and it is great news for him to be Scotland captain. But we will definitely put that aside until next week!"