Saracens have received a triple injury boost with Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Charlie Hodgson all declared fit for Saturday’s crunch European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Munster.
England fly-half Farrell missed last week’s defeat to Gloucester with a calf problem while Hodgson was sidelined with a shoulder injury. But while they were both expected to be fit for this weekend the return of centre Barritt, who has not played since suffering a calf injury for England against Australia in November, is a huge bonus.
Saracens boss Mark McCall says he will throw Barritt straight into his starting XV in a match which he admits is ‘the first knockout game of the year’.
“Owen Farrell, Charlie Hodgson and Brad Barritt will be fine,” said McCall. “It’s a massive boost having Brad back, we haven’t seen him since the autumn. To get a player of his quality back for a game like this is massive.
“In your biggest games you want your best players and Test match animals. Brad’s last game against Australia was for me one of the bravest and most physical performances I’ve seen by anyone, never mind a centre.
“If we get something like that on Saturday it will be pretty good, but it’s a tall order because he hasn’t played for a while.
“To not have either fly-half last Friday wasn’t ideal, but Owen’s injury was very, very minor. He trained on Monday, but we didn’t want to risk it with this Munster game coming up.”
And McCall says Farrell is back to his best after a torrid Autumn Series in which he was dropped by England after three poor performances.
The 23-year-old had only played one game due to injury before being selected to face the All Blacks in England’s opening game but McCall believes he is back in form.
“Owen’s not easy to damage,” said McCall. “But no-one’s impregnable. During that period he came in for an unfair amount of critical attention given that everyone knew he’s only played one game of rugby. That’s the nature of the beast when you play fly-half for England I suppose. It’s unfortunate he didn’t play for us last weekend, but he’d played five lots of 80 minutes in a row previous to that. Game by game he’s got better and better.”
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