Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Armitage hopes for England return

Steffon Armitage hopes an agreement can be reached to give him the opportunity to play for England again
Steffon Armitage hopes an agreement can be reached to give him the opportunity to play for England again

Steffon Armitage is hopeful the Rugby Football Union and Toulon can negotiate a situation that makes him available to play for England again.

The Toulon flanker is in Paris set to receive the prestigious Midi Olympique 'Oscar' for the best overseas player in the French Top 14. But Armitage does not feature in Stuart Lancaster's plans because he would not be available for England training camps or Test matches outside of the international window.

"I am always hoping and I will keep hoping in the future that I do get another chance with England," Armitage told Press Association Sport. "I hope there is a possibility there can be some negotiation (between England and Toulon) further down the line."

He added: "I will do anything to play again for England. At the moment Toulon's where everything lies."

The debate over England's need for a scavenging openside flanker in Armitage's mould intensified after Australia's Michael Hooper and South Africa's Francois Louw both turned in man-of-the-match performances at the weekend.

Asked if he would like England to try to come to arrangement with Toulon, Armitage said: "100 per cent yes. It is a big honour to put on the red rose."

Armitage won the last of his five caps off the bench against Italy in 2010. He had fallen out of favour with England's coach Martin Johnson when he moved from London Irish to Toulon 18 months ago.

He felt he had gone stale after 150 games for the Exiles and needed to kick-start his career. The move to the south of France, near where he played his schoolboy rugby with Nice, has done that. Armitage has been a shining light in a star-studded Toulon squad, to such an extent that team team-mate Jonny Wilkinson has been championing his England credentials.

"If Jonny reckons I should be (in the England team) then it makes me push even harder because I don't want to let Jonny down. Jonny is one of my heroes," Armitage said. "I knew what the risk was coming to France but I thought it would help my career more. I thought I needed that extra boost, to get back that feeling of always wanting more."

Armitage is a strong ball-carrier but his competitive instincts at the breakdown are different to those of anyone else in the current England senior squad. The captain Chris Robshaw is England's current number seven and he excelled at the breakdown against South Africa on the summer tour but many see him more as a blindside flanker.

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