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.