Saracens fan Louise Warr wonders if club spirit makes it harder for players to perform on international stage

Times Series: Chris Ashton (left) and Brad Barritt (right). Picture: Action Images Chris Ashton (left) and Brad Barritt (right). Picture: Action Images

Over recent years Saracens have become known for their tight-knit solidarity.

While this has been a contributing factor to their transformation from mid-table mediocrity to top four title contenders, could it in fact be a hindrance when it comes to the international environment?

Take Chris Ashton as an example.

His form for England has come under much scrutiny with many believing his place is severely under threat.

You watch the former Northampton man play for club and country and it is like watching a different player.

For his club, Ashton looks like an individual who is comfortable in their environment, happy to try things, hungry for work and with a smile never far from his face.

For country, it is a much different story - a man under pressure, a shadow of his former ‘ash splashing’ self.

Could it be that the strong inclusive Saracens wolfpack environment has made it difficult for players to adjust when faced with a different mentality, ethos and approach to man management?

In the Autumn Internationals the back line should have been firing.

It was a group of backs who were familiar with each other on the whole, if not in the white of England but in club colours. Yet the England attack failed to properly ignite, something was missing.

The bringing together of individuals from different backgrounds is always a difficult task. However the feel good factor surrounding Stuart Lancaster’s team is seemingly vanishing, something that could easily affect those out on the pitch.

The return of Barritt from injury will be a welcome sight for all.

He may not be the flashiest most eye-catching of players but the rock-solid dependability he brings to any team he plays in is indispensible.

With questions marks circulating over the possible centre partnership come Six Nations kick-off, the Sarries man has a real chance to cement himself as England’s rock in what seems to be a time of change around him.

Nobody knows whether Ashton will retain his place in Stuart Lancaster’s 15 however his ability to cross the whitewash for his club has raised the question why he has so far been unable to replicate this on the international stage.

It's a debate that's sure to rumble on in the coming weeks.

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