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Wasps target Steffon Armitage set to stay in France

Published 27/05/2016

Steffon Armitage, pictured, is expected to remain in France rather than move to England and bid to relaunch his Test career
Steffon Armitage, pictured, is expected to remain in France rather than move to England and bid to relaunch his Test career

Toulon flanker Steffon Armitage is closing in on a move to Pau that will disappoint Wasps but also scupper the chance to reignite his England career.

Wasps rugby director Dai Young recently confirmed their interest in signing back-rower Armitage as a replacement for Australia flanker George Smith.

Now though the Aviva Premiership club will miss out on bringing the five-cap England star to the Ricoh Arena, Press Association Sport understands.

Armitage has not featured for England since his 2011 move to Toulon, owing to the Rugby Football Union policy of ignoring overseas-based players save for the "exceptional circumstances" clause that is yet to be invoked.

The highly-rated, ball-winning flanker proved pivotal to Toulon's hat-trick of European titles between 2013 and 2015, and has several times flirted with a move back to the Premiership in order to relaunch his England career.

That prospect now appears almost dead in the water, with England head coach Eddie Jones already admitting Armitage would have to return to domestic club rugby before being considered for selection.

Wasps meanwhile will continue to scour the globe for potential replacements for both ex-Wallabies star Smith, heading to Japan, and full-back Charles Piutau, moving to Ulster.

The Coventry-based club have been keeping tabs on South Africa full-back Willie Le Roux and could yet convince the 26-year-old Sharks star to make the move to England.

Speaking two weeks ago, Wasps boss Young laid bare the realities of squad-building and the battle to recruit global superstars in modern rugby.

"Everyone realises what players are leaving here, so any players in those positions we're always going to be linked with them," said Young.

"The reality is at this moment in time it's pure speculation. Have we spoken to Toulon? No we haven't.

"I haven't spoken to (Le Roux) either, and I do pretty much all the signings.

"We know that, like a lot of players, he's out there, as in coming out of contract, weighing up his options.

"We've put a marker there as in we haven't put in any offers but we would be interested, but a lot of these players pretty much want to see how the die is cast on the international scene before they even think about looking elsewhere.

"There's lot of new international coaches and new environments, so a lot of these players will want to see where they fit in, certainly over the June internationals and probably then decide whether to stay where they are or look elsewhere.

"But the problem is, it's a difficult market, because agents have a job to do."

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