Barritt should be the centre of attention for Lancaster

Saracens' Brad Barritt (centre) congratulates try-scorer Chris Ashton.
Saracens' Brad Barritt (centre) congratulates try-scorer Chris Ashton.
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Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has called for centre Brad Barritt to be reinstated in England’s midfield ahead of next month’s Internationals series.

Barritt, who recovered from a calf injury to take his place in Saracens’ starting line-up against Gloucester, was his usual industrious self at Allianz Park as the hosts claimed a hard-fought 
28-21 Premiership victory.

Barritt’s last appearance in an England shirt was the 30-3 Six Nations defeat to Wales in Cardiff in 2013, and the Saracens chief thinks national head coach Stuart Lancaster should recall the Sarries centre.

“People underestimate Brad,” said McCall. “They think he’s a ‘one-trick pony’, that he can only defend. He defended brilliantly today, but there’s much more to his game and also his presence on the pitch.

“Without question, he’s the most competitive person that I’ve come across and he leads by example.

“I would have him on my international team every day of the week and I think there are a lot of people who would agree with that.”

McCall also praised fellow England hopeful Billy Vunipola, who seemed to get the better of Gloucester No 8 and international rival Ben Morgan.

“They tackled him well,” McCall said. “But he got us a lot of gainline. Some of his defence was outstanding. He had a great game.”

For the second time in two weeks, Saracens found themselves trailing early in the contest to a Rob Cook try, but hit back with Chris Wyles, Alistair Hargreaves and Chris Ashton crossing while fly-half Charlie Hodgson kicked three penalties and added two conversions in an assured display.

Tom Savage replied late on with a second try for Gloucester while Greig Laidlaw was flawless from the tee with four successful kicks, but Billy Twelvetrees missed two long-range efforts at goal which proved costly for the visitors.

Of more immediate concern to Lancaster, however, is the news that England flanker Tom Croft has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury.

The Leicester flanker missed most of last season after undergoing a knee reconstruction and, following Friday night’s 22-16 win over Harlequins, Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill confirmed he had gone under the knife again.

“Crofty won’t be fit for next week,” he said. “He has had a screw taken out of the knee that was irritating the joint. That was yesterday.

“He is probably six weeks away from playing. It’s disappointing for him and us.”

That timescale definitely rules the 28-year-old out of the Tests against New Zealand on November 8 and South Africa the following week with the Samoa and Australia matches that follow also highly unlikely considering Croft has played just one game this season.

The back-row initially damaged his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Leicester in the opening Premiership game of last season against Worcester.

He made his comeback in the final regular-season game of that season against Saracens but was rested by England for the summer as he got over his injury.

Croft took part in England’s summer training camp in August but has featured just once for Leicester this term as they were thumped 45-0 by Bath.

Confirming that Croft had undergone surgery, Cockerill added: “He has had some work done in there and you get back to playing and sometimes the metal work irritates the joint and it has done that.”

Croft has won 38 England caps since making his debut in the Six Nations in 2008 and represented the British and Irish Lions on the 2009 tour to South Africa and last summer’s trip to Australia.

Fellow back-row Tom Johnson will also miss the autumn Tests due to a neck injury and joins Alex Corbisiero (shoulder), Mako Vunipola (knee), Dan Cole (neck), Tom Youngs (shoulder) and Geoff Parling (concussion) in the England treatment room.

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was too angry to attend a post-match press conference after watching his side succumb to a six-try 43-10 thrashing at the hands of champions Northampton.

American No 8 Samu Manoa scored a hat-trick, while brothers George and Ken Pisi also dotted down, with fellow Samoan Kahn Fotuali’i scoring the final try in the Premiership rout at Franklin’s Gardens.

Mark Jennings finished off a 60m move for Sale, but Diamond was furious with his side’s display leaving the club’s spokesman to reveal he would not be attending the press conference as there were no positives to take from the game.

In contrast, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder was delighted with his side’s performance.