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Steffon Armitage questions decision to omit Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly

Published 03/02/2016

Maro Itoje, pictured, and Elliot Daly are in outstanding form
Maro Itoje, pictured, and Elliot Daly are in outstanding form

Steffon Armitage has questioned what message the decision to omit Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly from England's squad for their RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland sends to aspiring internationals.

Itoje has been a force in Saracens' second row this season while Daly is the Aviva Premiership's form outside centre, but both have been overlooked by Eddie Jones and will only travel to Edinburgh as reserves for the matchday 23.

The uncapped pair, who are 21 and 23-years-old respectively, are expected to play some role against Italy on Sunday week.

Paul Hill, Jack Clifford and Ollie Devoto are set to make their Test debuts off the bench at Murrayfield, but the 23 contains only four players who were not a part of last autumn's World Cup - one of them the previously suspended Dylan Hartley.

Hill and Devoto have profited from injuries to rivals in their positions, leaving Armitage to add his voice to the criticism of Eddie Jones' conservative approach to selection.

"I'll back England but I'm disappointed not to see a few faces in the team for the first game," said the Toulon and former England back row, speaking exclusively to 888Sport.com

"Elliot Daly has been one of the stars of the Premiership and in Europe this year. Maro Itoje has been outstanding.

"Not to see them in the group....I don't know what kind of message it's sending because they'll be wondering what they have to do to get in there.

"You have to put these players in when it's their time and you feel with Itoje that he's got there. He's doing it week in, week out for Saracens.

"Sometimes it's best to throw them into the deep end because otherwise when are you going to do it? This is the perfect time to do it."

Armitage, who won five caps from 2009-10 but is unavailable for selection due to Twickenham's stance on picking overseas players, agrees with Jones that England have lost the forward aggression that was once a pillar of their game.

And the 2014 European player of the year believes he would have added "spice" to Red Rose ranks.

"Just watching them I think they were (too nice). Everyone was too friendly and sometimes you need a nasty side to you when it comes to playing rugby and to further your career," he said.

"You can't be friends with everyone and that's just the way professional sport is. If one of your mates is in the same position you have to do what it takes to get ahead of him.

"So maybe they were too nice with everyone saying it was a big family and a tight group. Maybe that was one of the problems.

"I've played in the Premiership and the Top 14 and believe me they are two different games. Sometimes you just need a little bit of difference in a team to spice it up.

"Over here I play with and against some of the best players in the world and they teach me things and it's always good to look at it from a different perspective.

"If they had given me a chance I'm telling you 100 per cent I would have given everything I had."

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