France confirm Armitage interest
France have confirmed their interest in Steffon Armitage as the prelude to his selection for next year's World Cup.
Armitage is among 10 players that the French Rugby Federation hopes will become eligible for the national side. Australia's Brock James and Rory Kockott of South Africa are also on the list.
The 28-year-old Toulon openside won the last of his five England caps in 2010 but is prevented from representing Stuart Lancaster's team because he is based overseas.
There have been calls for Lancaster to activate the "exceptional circumstances" clause that exists in the Rugby Football Union's policy due to the back row's outstanding form last season.
So far Lancaster has refused and it is unlikely Armitage, the reigning European player of the year, will be picked by England's head coach.
France and Armitage are now seeking to exploit a loophole in qualifying regulations for Rio 2016 that enables players to switch national allegiance.
Changes to eligibility rules ahead of sevens' Olympics debut means a player can represent another country provided they have the correct passport and have not been capped for 18 months.
An appearance in just one qualification event for the Games would consequently enable Armitage to be picked by France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
The development will test the International Rugby Board's determination to ensure the loophole is not abused after chief executive Brett Gosper stated earlier this week that the game's world governing body is alert to abuses of the system.
"There is a regulations committee that will look at all applications for transfer and they will look to see if it's for bona fide sevens reasons," Gosper said.
"There is a safety net and any transfer will have to be passed by the committee. They will act according to the spirit of the law.
"For example, if we have huge props applying for a career in sevens, then we'll smell a rat.
"That's an obvious example and there will be some cases that are in a grey area, but we want to ensure the integrity of the regulation and the spirit behind it is upheld.
"Any obvious abuses that go counter to that spirit of why we're doing this will be caught in the regulations committee net.
"But players will move in both codes by coming into the sevens game - that will happen."
:: List of 10 players released by the FFR that could potentially be selected by France: Uini Atonio, Francois van der Merwe, Steffon Armitage, Alex Tulou, Rory Kockott, Brock James, Blair Connor, Noa Nakaitaci, David Smith, Scott Spedding.