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Armitage backed for England recall

Carl Hayman believes rugby bosses should not be allowed to enforce "political decisions" that "restrict player movement" and could see Steffon Armitage miss this year's World Cup.

Toulon captain Hayman led the Cote d'Azur club to an unprecedented third consecutive European title in Saturday's 24-18 Twickenham victory over Clermont, then backed Armitage for an England recall.

Former All Blacks tighthead Hayman opted to join Toulon from Newcastle Falcons in 2010 rather than chase World Cup glory with New Zealand a year later.

New Zealand and England are the last remaining Test nations to refuse to select overseas-based stars after Australia's partial U-turn, but Hayman believes both countries should be forced into a policy shift.

"I think Steffon Armitage definitely deserves to go to the World Cup this year with England," Hayman told Press Association Sport.

"He was European Player of the Year last year and he's made the shortlist again this year.

"It's not playing ability that's stopping him making the squad it's a political decision."

Australia have lifted their blanket selection ban on foreign-based stars, confirming they will consider overseas players with 60 or more caps.

The Wallabies' middle-ground compromise has opened the door for Toulon duo Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell to feature at the autumn World Cup.

Both men starred in Saturday's inaugural Champions Cup final, Mitchell's savvy line and searing run claiming the decisive try.

Armitage played full part in Toulon's third-straight European triumph, but unlike Mitchell and Giteau does not have new World Cup avenues before him.

The former London Irish flanker remains blocked by England's refusal to select players based abroad save for the "extraordinary circumstances" clause that is yet to be invoked.

Hayman is adamant national unions must end tactics designed to keep top stars plying their trade on home soil and bow to rugby's increasing globalisation.

"The sooner that rugby gets to grips with the fact it's a professional game and players move around the better for everyone," said Hayman.

"Players would then have more choice to play where they want, which they ought to have.

"Players shouldn't be restricted by not being able to move countries because they won't get selected for their national team.

"Those kinds of decisions restrict player movement, and I don't think that should happen.

"Players should be able to come and go to whichever country they like, and still be available for their national team."

Argentina flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe added his voice to the growing Toulon clamour for Armitage to be drafted into England's World Cup plans.

The former Sale back-rower admitted his bias when tipping Armitage for a World Cup call, before claiming the dilemma of shifting the selection goalposts is a "nice problem" for England boss Stuart Lancaster.

"Everything's been said about Stef, he's an amazing player," said Lobbe.

"Honestly I've had the chance to play beside him in the back-row and he's an amazing player; work-rate, the way he trains the way he's been working his socks off to be the fittest guy ever.

"And he's been amazing on the pitch.

"Because I like him I hope he can go.

"He's a world-class player and in a World Cup you have to have world-class players.

"But we can see that the England coach is doing a good job so it's up to him to decide.

"Because I'm his friend I hope he gets the chance to go.

"I'm just saying I'm playing beside a world-class player, and normally at the World Cup you have all the world-class players.

"So I hope he can do it, because I think he deserves it.

"There are very good players in the England team though, and it's not for me to decide.

"It's up to Stuart Lancaster, and he has a nice problem."


From Belfast Telegraph