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29 Mar 2020, Edition - 1720, Sunday

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Brad Barritt back from injury in time to lead Saracens against Leinster

The Guardian

Saracens captain had metal plate put in cheek on Tuesday

Champions Cup quarter-final is in Dublin on Sunday

Brad Barritt will lead Saracens in their Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster after displaying miraculous powers of recovery from a broken cheekbone, but the defending champions remain concerned about the fitness of Owen Farrell and will be without Billy Vunipola on Sunday.

Barritt played on after sustaining the injury against Harlequins last Saturday but the left side of his face became swollen after he blew his nose that night. He had only a local anaesthetic when a metal plate was inserted on Tuesday and will run out in Dublin just five days after surgery, earning the nickname “Terminator” from his team-mate Sean Maitland.

“They numbed the side of the mouth, created an incision this side, used what looks like a shoehorn to pull the cheek back, scraped away to the bone, put in a vertical plate and then drilled it in,” Barritt said. “It was a pretty surreal experience but I have had a lot more painful things in my day, I would compare it to routine dentistry.

“I literally rolled into [the hospital] and was out within 25 minutes. [My family] are 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. My son thinks it’s quite fun to play with it.”

Barritt’s availability is a major boost for Saracens – the only English club left in the competition – considering how keenly his absence was felt when he went off early during their 46-14 pool-stage humiliation by Clermont Auvergne. George Kruis, who missed out against Quins with a back problem, is poised to return but the Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, rated Farrell as 50-50 and will make a call on his quad injury on Friday. Of Vunipola he said: “Billy is as fit as he’s ever been but unfortunately his arm is still broken.”

Leicester are still waiting on the results of a scan on Manu Tuilagi’s pectoral injury but are optimistic it is not “overly severe”. The head coach, Matt O’Connor, said: “Our medics certainly think it’s not serious and it’s also not the same pec he injured a couple of seasons ago, which is a real positive. He knows how serious the other pec injury was, how sore it was at the time and his thinking is that it’s nothing as serious as that.”

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