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Bath go cold on Armitage deal


Bath had been hoping to bring in Steffon Armitage

Bath had been hoping to bring in Steffon Armitage

Bath had been hoping to bring in Steffon Armitage

Bath are ready to pursue an alternative solution to their back-row injury crisis after their interest in Steffon Armitage hit a financial roadblock.

While head coach Mike Ford has offered a glimmer of hope that a deal to take Armitage to the Recreation Ground can yet be reached, the sums involved in agreeing his release from the remaining two years of his contract at Toulon have so far proved an insurmountable hurdle.

Ford confirmed that both Bath and Armitage were keen on a move that would enable the reigning European player of the year to challenge for a place in England's squad for the 2015 World Cup.

Overseas-based players are currently only allowed to be selected by England in 'exceptional circumstances'.

Under the Aviva Premiership's injury dispensation rules, clubs are permitted to spend up to £400,000 on cover for a like-for-like player who has been ruled out for at least 12 weeks.

Armitage, who has been a revelation since swapping London Irish for Toulon in 2011, topped Bath's list of targets, but they are now ready to turn their attention elsewhere.

"The move would have been fantastic for us and fantastic for England. It did get pretty close to him coming, but it's not happened," Ford said.

"It's bit of a shame really for Steffon, Bath and England.

"Steffon was very keen on playing for his country at the World Cup and keen on playing for Bath. He thinks we're playing some good rugby.

"He thinks his style would have fit in well here. Ultimately he was happy to leave the European champions to play for England at the World Cup.

"He knew he wouldn't walk into the England squad and would have to play very good rugby to do that.

"I don't think it's going to happen now unless high-level people come to an agreement.

"There's another player we're looking at. Everyone knows him and he's been in the Premiership a while. It's not that easy when players are at other clubs."

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Ford revealed that if Armitage becomes cup-tied by playing for Toulon in the opening round of the European Rugby Champions Cup this weekend, Bath's interest will be terminated. The defending champions host the Scarlets on Sunday.

Bath open their challenge for Toulon's crown against Glasgow on Saturday and had negotiations been successful, Armitage would have slotted straight into the starting XV.

"(Bath owner) Bruce Craig is doing his best to make this deal happen," Ford said.

"We're not quite there at the moment and I have Glasgow to prepare for."

Alafoti Fa'osiliva, Carl Fearns, Matt Garvey and Francois Louw are in the treatment room facing significant spells out, while Bath expected Leroy Houston to be cited on Tuesday night for his yellow card against Wasps.

Armitage was recently included in a provisional France squad, subject to his selection by their Sevens team for Olympic qualification.

If his route back with England is denied, he may revisit his interest in representing Les Bleus at the World Cup.

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