Returning Barritt’s ready to renew rivalry with Clermont Auvergne in Champions Cup semi-final

Saracens' Brad Barritt

Saracens' Brad Barritt - Credit: Archant

Saracens have been dealt a timely boost ahead of Saturday’s European Champions Cup semi-final, with England centre Brad Barritt back in action after a five-week lay-off.

The England centre played 70 minutes of Saracens’ 22-6 Premiership victory over Leicester Tigers at Allianz Park at the weekend – and he is relishing the challenge that awaits against Clermont Auvergne in France.

Sarries travel to the neutral venue of St Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy Guichard on the back of seven victories, but they will start as underdogs – the Hendon outfit have faced Clermont six times since 2010, losing four times and winning twice.

Both of their victories came in London. Last year’s 46-6 semi-final triumph at Twickenham secured the club’s place in the European final for the first time, and that was followed by a home win in the pool stage earlier this season.

But Clermont won the encounter in France in January, and they thumped Premiership leaders Northampton 37-5 in the quarter-finals earlier this month.

“It’s huge,” said Barritt. “We obviously have a great rivalry with Clermont, spanning back three or four years, and the guys are buzzing.

“After the grit and determination they showed in the last round [Saracens beat Racing Metro 12-11 in Paris] to get us into this position, it’s only fair we go there and put in a great performance.

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“Each time we play Clermont it is going to be a big opportunity and a big occasion.

“Last season, we had an upward trajectory the whole season. I think it was a record for points scored and tries scored, and we were top of the Premiership with three or four games to go.

“This year, there have been some ups and downs, and the character shown throughout has been monumental.

“We like to think that as a team we are now peaking towards the end of the season, and that will hopefully stand us in good stead for the next two months.”

Meanwhile, Saracens and England Saxons lock Maro Itoje has committed his future to Saracens by signing a new contract.

The 20-year old Junior World Cup-winning captain, who skippered Saracens’ victorious LV=Cup side this season, has already made 24 appearances for the club and made his England Saxons debut in January.

England international lock George Kruis has also signed a new deal to remain at the club this week, having enjoyed a stand-out season.