Belfast Telegraph

Biting Back: England rugby chiefs need to compromise on players

By Niall Crozier

England's rugby players jetted off for New Zealand on Tuesday minus the ERC European Player of the Year for 2014.

Steffan Armitage was omitted from Stuart Lancaster's squad as per England's stance that anyone playing other than in the Aviva Premiership excludes himself.

The omission of 28-year-old Armitage is interesting, because Lancaster's tourists include outside-half Danny Cipriani, who won the last of his seven England caps in November 2008.

You may recall that his Test debut was delayed after he was pictured coming out of a nightclub two days before the match.

Mercifully, the penny appears to have dropped for the 26-year-old who spent three seasons in Australia playing for Melbourne Rebels before joining Sale Sharks in 2012.

Back in England, Cipriani began the painful business of growing up, hastened by an accident which saw him hospitalised after being knocked down by a bus in Leeds whilst undertaking the 'Otley Run' pub crawl with some team-mates. Now redeemed, he is back in the fold.

Armitage's unpardonable sin is that he plays for Toulon, thereby rendering his status as Europe's best player of 2014 irrelevant. Despite his excellence, England refuse to consider him.

Ireland's stance on such matters is more flexible and reasonable. As a result, Racing Metro's Jonathan Sexton continues to be included, as was Tommy Bowe during his four-year stint with Ospreys. Indeed, one of his seasons with the Swansea-based region was 2008-09, the campaign in which Ireland won the Grand Slam – with exiled Bowe to the fore.

Sometimes there's a lot to be said for compromise. And common sense.

Belfast Telegraph


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