- Barritt salutes centres that did not make final squad
- Slade says England have “gelled together and are ready”
Midfield pair Brad Barritt and Henry Slade may occupy either end of the scale in terms of Test experience, but both men are in full agreement on the fact that being selected in England’’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup feels like a “dream come true”.
Barritt was part of the first group of players to be called together when Stuart Lancaster began his tenure as England ahead of the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.
He made a debut in the opening clash of that tournament against Scotland and, though injuries have restricted his international return to 22 caps, calm communication and wholehearted commitment have made him a key figure in the set-up.
Speaking to the assembled media just hours after Thursday’s announcement, the 29 year-old Saracen typically chose to address Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees – the centres that did not make the final party.
“To be part of a World Cup for me personally is a dream come true,” he said. “Growing up, every player dreams of a World Cup because it’s something you always want. To be in the frame now is immensely pleasing.
“For the guys missing out, it’s extremely tough on them. The centre group has been a really competitive place. There have been six guys who have really put up their hands throughout the whole of the pre-season. Obviously there are only four remaining.
“It’s been a tough call on those guys, but I think they have done themselves proud. They’ve shown a lot of class and integrity.”
Bath Rugby duo Jonathan Joseph and Sam Burgess occupy the two other midfield slots and Barritt continued by praising the impact of the latter rugby league convert, who introduced himself to Twickenham with a fine performance next to Slade in the 19-14 vixtory over France a fortnight ago.
“He’s come in and definitely made a statement. He’s trained well, and alongside Henry he really impressed. That’s not just been in the games, that’s been day-in, day-out.”
Slade agreed that he and Burgess had dovetailed well, using their “blend of attributes” to good effect.
Just four seasons ago, the young Exeter Chiefs playmaker was part of John Fletcher’s England Under 18 side. However, his obvious talents have demanded inclusion and he declared himself primed for a hugely exciting two months.
“This time last year I never thought I’d be in this position,” added 22 year-old Slade. “Like Brad says, it’s a dream come true really.
“Over the last few months it’s become more and more like a reality. I smiled when I found out, maybe I was still slightly shocked.
“But I’ve been happy with my contribution over the pre-season and in the matches, so I thought hopefully I had done enough.
“We’ve had a lot of time together and we’ve gelled as a squad pretty well. Some of it has been tough – there have been some hard sessions. I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say I think we’re ready and looking forward to getting out there.”
Barritt was ruled out of contention for England’s 25-20 loss at the Stade de France last Saturday due to a tight calf.
Now fully recovered and eager to hit the ground running next week in preparation for the second QBE International against Ireland on 5 September, he finished on a determined note.
“[I’m] back to full fitness and back to full training. Obviously we’ve all got through an immense amount of work that’s gone on over the past nine weeks and all of us will say we’re in the best shape we’ve ever been.
“That’s a great outlook to go into a World Cup with, knowing you’ve put in the hard yards and you’re ready just to take to the field and play – that’s the easy part.”