IT is with good reason that Saracens winger Sean Maitland has started calling his captain Brad Barritt ‘The Terminator’.
Barritt may be lacking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s thick Austrian accent, but he has made a remarkable recovery to be fit for this Sunday’s showdown with Leinster.
The centre suffered a fractured cheekbone during last Saturday’s victory over Harlequins, an injury he only discovered later that night when he was blowing his nose and the left side of his face swelled up. Air that should have been going through his mouth was residing in his cheek instead.
Barritt promptly had a CT scan on Monday before making the 100-mile round trip to Farnborough to undergo surgery.
However, determined to play in this weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin, the South African then had the procedure under local and not general anaesthetic.
It meant the 31-year-old was awake for the whole 25-minute surgery on Tuesday and returned to full training just 24 hours later.
“They numbed this side of the mouth,” said Barritt, pointing at his still swollen left cheek.
“They created an incision this side, used what looks like a shoehorn to pull the cheek back, scraped away to the bone and put in a vertical plate and then drilled it in.
“The marvels of modern science meant that they could do it under local anaesthetic. It was much like a routine tooth operation I would say.
“I had a horizontal crack in my cheekbone so I have had a titanium plate put in there, which I’m told is now stronger than the other side.
“This is not a game you want to miss. In terms of the preparation we have had I was very confident of going into the full session we have had today (Wednesday). So I’m feeling great.”
There was, of course, the option for Barritt to be unconscious during the procedure and to have the surgery under general anaesthetic.
However, such a scenario can have complications as it may take patients a few days to shake off the anaesthetic.
With Saracens looking to win a third European crown in a row there was no way Barritt was going to take such a risk ahead of Sunday’s match.
“The risk of the general would be the ill-effects are four to five days of being a little groggy and a little lethargic,” he said.
“And potentially the implications of the medicine and the pipes going down into your chest.
“The surgeon was very confident, he’d done it before on elderly people who weren’t fit to go under the anaesthetic. I literally rolled in there and was out within 25 minutes.
“It was a pretty surreal experience but I have had a lot more painful things in my day.”
Even his family didn’t bat much of an eyelid.
“They’re (Barritt’s family) actually quite used to it now. My wife doesn’t even bother trying to talk about it. She understands how it works now these days.”
While Barritt is back for the match with Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, Saracens will have to contend without a number of key players.
Number eight Billy Vunipola has not recovered from a broken arm in time, while Vincent Kock, Michael Rhodes, Will Skelton and Calum Clark are all long-term absentees.
Second row George Kruis is back in contention to play after a back problem, but his England team-mate Owen Farrell is a doubt.
The fly-half is rated at 50-50 to be fit for Sunday’s match after missing last weekend’s game with Harlequins due to a quad injury.
“George Kruis looks like he’ll be fine and we’ll make a decision on Owen on Friday,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.
“His chances are probably 50-50.
“He did a little bit today for the first time and we’ll see how he reacts to that. Fingers crossed he’ll be able to do a bit more on Friday.
“Obviously Owen is a great player. He is a great player in good form at the moment, he had a good Six Nations, and he was one of England’s best players during the competition.
“So he is on top of his game. We are all hopeful that he can play, but if he can’t Alex [Lozowski] is a great stand-in for him.”
Sunday: Aviva Stadium, 3.30pm
Referee: Jérome Garcès (France)
TV: BT Sport
Bet: Leinster 2/5, Saracens 2/1, Draw 19/1
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