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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Steffon Armitage's powerful fend try against Perpignan

Toulon face Munster in the Heineken Cup Semi Final today with all English eyes on the player there has been a lot of talk about this week, Steffon Armitage. He's been in a rich vein of form and will be one to watch as Toulon aim for another European title.

Last weekend Armitage scored this try against Perpignan in the Top 14. Yes, he was up against a winger but it's just an example of how lethal he can be in a relatively small space. That's just one element of his game that has made the likes of Will Greenwood sit up and notice.

"Steffon could be a catalyst for change, especially if England are serious about leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to mount a credible challenge at the next World Cup," Greenwood said.

England's policy is such that they won't select players based abroad, unless it's in 'exceptional circumstances'. That gives players like Armitage a slim chance of making a comeback, and fans the belief that if his form is such that it can't be ignored, he should be selected for the national setup.

"Armitage is the best back-row forward in Europe at present – he really is," Greenwood continued.

"His performances have been spectacular and I am betting on another strong one in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster to push his case further. Last week, he dominated another big game when Perpignan took their home tie to Barcelona and Armitage's Toulon side steamrollered them.

"Armitage, at No 8, was at the heart of everything that was good. He is powerful, he has a low centre of gravity and he is so quick he could play in the centre. He has superb hands, a total desire to win, massive anaerobic capacity and is magnificent at the breakdown."

Former Springbok and current Toulon back rower Juan Smith has said he'd be surprised if Armitage doesn't get taken to the Rugby World Cup next year. "He is one of the most special guys I have ever played with. Steffon Armitage is one of the best openside flankers in the world at the moment, so to not take that guy to the World Cup will be a big mistake."

These are just some of the plaudits Armitage has received of late, and with another big performance against today, he may just force Stuart Lancaster to reconsider their position.

"Stuart said that the RFU rules are probably not going to change but that the door is not wholly closed," Armitage himself explained. "Of course I'd love to play for England again."

If Lancaster decides to go for it or not remains to be seen, but it's clear that despite some serious competition in the England squad loose-forward ranks, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player in better form than Steffon Armitage currently. 

Posted at 12:38 pm | 21 comments

Posted in Great Tries, See it to Believe it

Viewing 21 comments

Wluckwell April 27, 2014 1:33 pm

He know's the rules. simple. I would have Croft over him any day of the week if we are talking World cup squad.

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Matt April 27, 2014 1:40 pm

Croft is good, but there is no way he is much better than Steffon. This guy is just everywhere at the same time. England have to pick him!

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Wluckwell April 27, 2014 1:48 pm

I'm in no way saying that Steffon is a bad player because i think he is great, but we have enough bruisers in our back row. When fit, Croft is just immense.

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Herman Munster April 27, 2014 5:28 pm

Croft's a 6, drop Robshaw. Yep I said it, he's better than Robshaw.

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DanKnapp April 27, 2014 5:46 pm

Unless we have a load of players injured, don't pick Steffon. He knew the policy when he went to France. If you want to play for England, play your rugby in England. That's the rule and we should stick to it, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

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ruckinmaul April 27, 2014 4:57 pm

shit tackle. Boomfa! Why on earth you want to go high with some one bigger than you.

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DrG April 27, 2014 5:15 pm

...to hopefully succeed in not only stopping the player but also stopping the offload.

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ruckinmaul April 27, 2014 6:59 pm

yup, but poor him, he failed both miserably.

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DrG May 02, 2014 11:12 am

Well yeh, hardly the most sensible thing to do to a number 8 of his size, but I suppose it's a position none of us particularly enjoy being in...

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Canadian content April 27, 2014 7:07 pm

Croft is great but he simply does not offer what Steffon does which is dominance at the breakdown and huge ball carrying on the first phase, which only vunipola is better at then armitAge.

That being said, when picking a back row, I like the England rwc 2003 philosophy: make sure the group has the prerequisite skills, rather than evaluating it player by player.

Robshaw is a great leader and fine rugby player, but can he do the breakdown or ball carrying work of armitAge? No, however, would armitAge and vunipola be effective together with say wood? I'd say they might lack width in their play, but maybe England's athletic locks would make up for that.

All this to say, gotta pick him, perhaps not to start though

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FatProp April 27, 2014 7:43 pm

No don't pick him because then we will see most of our players going to France. If we really wanted a fetcher/traditional openside then we have Seymour/Kvesic/Fraser who are all playing for English sides. Armitage looks very good as he is a back row player on the side of a dominant forward pack, it would be an achievement to look poor playing for Toulon. He is a good player but he isn't the player the media has bigged him up to be. Honestly think of a poor back row player, I will say Tom Johnson(my opinion), if you put him in the Toulon pack he will look 5 times better, he will be on the front foot and can run in open space.

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Rower111 April 28, 2014 6:40 am

Lancaster should pick the best English players available to him. If Armitage is the best in the world at any position he should be picked, simple. Don't forget these guys have to make a living out of this, and they retire at an early age. They need financial security as much as everyone else.

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Joe April 28, 2014 9:19 am

Armitage is a great player, but if the policy of selecting foreign based players is relaxed, surely there will be a mass exodus of english players from the premiership to the top 14, and the English clubs will end up like the welsh regions. No one wants that.

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Bunn April 28, 2014 9:52 am

England don't really need him and tbh, he's pretty fat. It's slightly embarrassing to have a professional athlete in that shape. Also it's hard to say he's better than the twice Lion Croft

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DrG April 28, 2014 11:26 am

They played Matt Stevens enough...

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10stonenumber10 April 29, 2014 11:27 am

Andy Goode.

The All Blacks played Piri Weepu. He is no stranger to pie and mash either.

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Eddie-g April 28, 2014 6:38 pm

If he's to get a shot, I reckon he'll need to be picked for the NZ tour. It's been a good while since England played with a true fetcher, and there's not a whole lot of time before the next world cup if Lancaster wants to experiment with a player like Armitage.

If it were up to me, I'd give it a go - Armitage, Robshaw, Vunipola could be a very dangerous trio. My guess though is this won't happen; aside from current RFU policy, Armitage couldn't break into the squad when he was playing for London Irish, and the doubters that he is international quality will still be there.

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10stonenumber10 April 29, 2014 11:17 am

It is a difficult situation for England. Robshaw is a good leader, and an all round 7, but hasn't got the pace or snaffling of Steffon. England have invested too much in Robshaw to shift him before the World Cup too.

Schalk Brits plays a similar game. Everywhere on the park, physical, quick and could do a good job in the national 7-a-side also. But they are both not the biggest, while strong, they are easy enough to nullify if you close their space.

Playing Robshaw and Armitage would need Vunipola, and on top form, otherwise Launchbury would be the only heavy ball carrier in the 2nd/back row. Stick Armitage on the bench, he covers all 3 at Toulon, and I seem to remember him getting a fair few minutes at outside centre for London Irish too... obviously not a serious consideration but a useful string to have to a bow.

Or could this all this selection refusal be a big media hype to hopefully convince him to sign for a Premiership Club?

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DrG May 01, 2014 12:24 am

Difficult call as many have pointed out. On one hand the England squad have their rules and I suppose they are there to promote 'local' rugby and to try and deter players from heading to France following money. On the other hand England does want to win the RWC does it not? In some ways surely that means picking the best team available (for the record, I'm not saying Armitage is the best but you all get the point).

Of course you cannot blame players, one nasty injury and that could be their pro career over, insurance will only go so far, so I'm not surprised they try and build a big nest egg quickly...

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DanKnapp May 01, 2014 6:04 am

While I agree to a certain extent, they will work after rugby. They just won't be playing the sport. This isn't their only shot at making money. Obviously they will want to make a chunk of money before they retire from the sport, but the money isn't the be all and end all. I would imagine that there will be players who, in twenty years time, might regret moving to France and missing out on one last shot at the World Cup.

I would like England to win the World Cup, but I would prefer to have an England team whom I respect, have a fondness for, and who represents my nation. In many respects that means I want to see players who live and play in England. The World Cup final is one game every four years. The other 1,460 days are also important.

I think in the long term it is better for our game to keep the salary cap and also to keep the rule about playing in England.

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DrG May 01, 2014 11:03 am

Oh definitely, the only thing is that this is the pro players chances to make big money at something that someone has let them know they are very good at.

Obviously you said they have the opportunity to make money afterwards, which I don't dispute, but; dare I say it, they might not have a 'natural talent' for it and it could be more risky than effectively being told what to do in a rugby camp and turning up and doing it - and getting paid a healthy sum at the same time.

I do however agree that it is 'better' for English (or any other nations) rugby if you actually have your 'local boys' on TV playing for your country. I see highlights from matches at Bath, Gloucester etc and the ground looks like it could be any ground anywhere in the country and so to see what is in effect international players that you can meet and greet afterwards has to be a very nice bonus for fans and probably very inspiring for youngsters.

However if the England team consists of a bunch who are currently in one corner of France, some in England, some in the other corner, then it makes it more out of reach, less personal.

I think some players are going to probably regret the move, then again others might not. I think it would be absolutely amazing to run out onto a pitch in my countries colours, but maybe for some people that is not as important. Then again, perhaps this is something they are working towards in their later years, look at the likes of Cipriani, he was thrown into an England shirt at a young age, played some good rugby and made some hideous mistakes, he then buzzed off to Oz as has appeared to become a brilliant player, obviously an International test will be the final proof, but I'd say he has more flair than Farrell...

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