Overlooked Armitage is ‘world class’


Back rower Armitage won the last of his five caps in 2010 and has been out of contention since joining French big-spenders Toulon from London Irish a year later.

Armitage, 29, has been in the form of his life, named European Player of the Year in 2014 and again on the five-man shortlist for this year’s award.

The Rugby Football Union’s policy of not allowing foreign-based players to be picked was back in the spotlight last week after Australia, who play England in the pool stage of the World Cup, relaxed their selection rules - a decision that has offered Armitage’s Toulon team mates Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell a path back into the Wallabies fold.

South African World Cup winner Botha has had a closer view than most of Armitage.

“He’s a world class player who works hard here at Toulon. I believe he could walk into the England squad and participate in the World Cup for England,” Botha told a conference call ahead of Saturday’s European Cup final between Toulon and Clermont Auvergne.

Armitage has again enjoyed an outstanding season and it was no co-incidence that a flagging and indisciplined Toulon’s fortunes revived when Armitage came off the bench in last weekend’s semi-final against Leinster in Marseille.

But this weekend’s final, with Toulon bidding for a third straight European title, may be his only taste of the Twickenham turf this year.

England have an “exceptional circumstances” clause that would allow head coach Stuart Lancaster to select Armitage but that appears a slim prospect with some England players having voiced their opposition to such a move.

Botha, though, has no doubt that it is England’s loss.

“A guy like him... when he runs onto the field. I know that I can only give him one and a half seconds, not even two seconds at the ruck to try to slow down and Steffen is in there and he will definitely give (win) you a few penalties and a shot at goal,” he said.

“You can see the eagerness in is eyes every morning when he comes in I can definitely see his desire to play in the World Cup.

“But at the end of the day he can only do as much as he can and then the decision lies with the English Rugby Union. Hopefully it will work out for the guy.” – Reuters

Original source: Overlooked Armitage is ‘world class’