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No more bad boy for Armitage

Delon Armitage insists his bad-boy days are a thing of the past as he prepares to relaunch his England career against Wales at Twickenham.

Armitage was banned twice last season, including an eight week suspension for shoving and abusing an anti-doping official which ruled him out of the RBS 6 Nations. The 27-year-old trained with the squad during his suspension and will start a Test for the first time in 17 months on Saturday.

"It is no secret I have found it hard to manage by emotions," Armitage said. "I play the game with passion and sometimes with a little bit too much. That is what I have been working on. I like playing on the edge, it just needs to be a little bit controlled sometimes."

He added: "The last year didn't go as well as I wanted it to. I am just glad I am here with an opportunity to get back in the squad. I want to play for England and nothing is going to stop me getting where I want to get. It has been a long wait for me.

"What happened, happened. I felt really bad about it but now I am back focused on playing well for England and trying to get into the World Cup squad."

Armitage made his Test debut in Martin Johnson's first match in charge, against the Pacific Islands, and he was unfortunate to miss out on Lions selection in 2009 after an eye-catching season.

But as England continued to struggle, so Armitage began to lose his spark and then his form. Johnson and the England coaches eventually lost patience, substituting him during the drab Six Nations draw against Scotland in 2010 before dropping him altogether for the trip to France.

Armitage described that experience as the lowest point of his career and that being axed, although nothing he did not expect, had left his confidence "broken". He has won a handful of replacement caps since but only now does he feel back to his best and ready to make an impact again for England.

"That seems like a long time ago now. I am really confident, raring to go. I am excited about this weekend and all that is forgotten. It is about the future and playing for England," he said.

"I have been working really hard and my aim was always to get back in the squad and play for England. I want to get back to that feeling again, that enjoyment. There is nothing better than wearing the England 15 shirt every weekend. This will be a great occasion, having not played at Twickenham for a while. It will be amazing in front of a sell-out crowd."


From Belfast Telegraph