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Wednesday Nov 26, 2014

Toulon based Steffon Armitage says he still wants to play for England

Toulon based Steffon Armitage says he still wants to play for England

It’s the debate that’s raged on for some time now, and while some feel that by choosing to play abroad Steffon Armitage has made his intentions clear, this intimate chat with Martin Bayfield should bring further clarity to the issue.

England coach Stuart Lancaster has said that he will only choose players based outside of England in exceptional circumstances. He’s had ample opportunity to use that clause to his team’s benefit, but hasn’t, instead opting for locally based players, snubbing the 2014 European Player of the Year.

Armitage explains to Rugby Tonight’s Bayfield that the paths he’s chosen haven’t been taken lightly. He and his family spent many years outside of England, and he is fluent in French. It’s in his blood.

“I’ve spent most of my life there. I went to school there. I’m fluent in French. I started playing in Nice at the age of 10. It’s still a big part of me,” he said.

When asked the all important question, he doesn’t skirt around the subject.

“I still want to play for my country. I’m ready. If they want me to play, I’ll be there.”

He explains that he wanted to head back to the UK and give things a go for the Rugby World Cup, with a proposed move to Bath. That didn’t work out for one reason or another, so he’s made the best of life at double champions Toulon, where he believes he’s played the best rugby of his career.

While it’s not the route that the current RFU or England Rugby regime have approved of, Armitage’s form has been such that fans have called for his selection, where perhaps now more than ever he could make a big difference to the side, just a year out from the World Cup.

credit: Bt Sport/Rugby Tonight


  • rugbydump
    2:57 PM 03/12/2014

    Well played. You'd think there was ample opportunity to fix that typo. Done now anyway!

  • 4lc4tr4z
    8:28 AM 02/12/2014

    Rob Andrew just repeated in the french press he won't call french based players (Flood or Armitage) essentialy for political reasons (it would make a bad example to english youth) unless they need them to cover an injury crisis before the World Cup (= in june). About the "exceptionnal circumstances" already used for Jonny Wilkinson and others, and his own experience in France when playing for England, his answer suddenly squeezed to something that was really looking like "oh! Look over there! A bird!"

  • 4lc4tr4z
    8:21 AM 02/12/2014

    Steffon is under contract in Toulon to June 2017.

  • danknapp
    4:18 PM 28/11/2014

    It's an opportunity to get to a ruck JUST as the ball leaves. I was the bloody master of it.

  • eddie-g
    3:06 PM 28/11/2014

    Said it before, but if the European Player of the Year, playing in a position which England have for years struggled to fill, doesn't count as an "exceptional circumstance", I'm not sure what will. It's either a case of England not believing he'll fit with their style of play, or complete determination to stick with the no overseas players policy. Because Armitage is world-class; his Toulon all say so, and they should know.

  • themull
    9:21 PM 27/11/2014

    It actually beggars belief that he hasn't been a mainstay in the english squad for the last two years..At club level he is the best performing English player in Europe imo..and if he were in the England squad i would say he would probably be the most valuable player in the English pack besides maybe Dan Cole...he would likely be the strongest ball carrier in the english pack and would without a doubt be the best english player to contest ball at ruck time... Perhaps I'm putting too much emphasis on his performances at club level, but he has consistently dominated in the vast majority of big heineken cup game he has played..dominance which reminds me of Sean O'Brien's erc player of the year season and just look how successful he went on to become.. Given the short amount of time between now and the world cup I don't see him playing a major role for England, and thankfully so from everybody else's point of view.. There's still a chance to bring him in for the 6 nations but given how stubborn lancaster and co have been about him so far do you really think they'll change their tune now? maybe a defeat to Aus on the weekend would put enough pressure on them to make a change..

  • matthew
    9:14 AM 27/11/2014

    Of course, if Samu Manoa leaves Saints for Toulon at the end of this season, that would in principle leave a space someone like Armitage could perhaps fit. Just saying....

  • 1:10 AM 27/11/2014

    Hard to believe him and delon are brothers, he seems like a really good guy. He adds a breakdown element England don't have. Pity

  • 10stonenumber10
    12:16 AM 27/11/2014

    That is probably the selection headache. Going forward, there isn't an england forward who can hold a candle to him. Depending how you look at things, and this will divide opinion, but he can only consistently do what he does at the breakdown and defensively when he has the rest of the Toulon pack supporting. Most of those guys are either seasoned southern hemisphere veterans, or monstrous physical specimens, will he perform as well without them 'filling in the gaps'? No doubt a great asset to the England team, but he plays "Armitage", not "open side" or "blindside", as a regular in the top14 it is easy to build a game plan and consistent performances when you have the time to gel as a team, but with the limited number of games before the world cup, it could be a page too far in the playbook. Much like with Sam Burgess. In 2011 SBW was on the wing because the others knew the game plan far better than he did when push came to shove, with limited experience and less union time than SBW, Burgess will be rawer still. The way I see the England game plan, and if he and Armitage are involved in the World Cup, they will start against Fiji and Uruguay, and be used off the bench for the remainder, dropped for the knockout stages unless there is injury. The media frenzy will magnify Burgess's weaknesses (if any) like the pack of dogs they are, I just hope I'm wrong, and either England, Ireland (or extremely unlikely Italy) do something special next year.

  • drg
    7:45 PM 26/11/2014

    Does Steffon fit in with the England game plan? I don't know what exactly it is, but it seems a bit less expansive than when I first saw Lancaster get involved.. it looks a little 2003 rugby, just 1-10 rugby... maybe not, but these current forwards look like the typical England forwards.. they do what forwards do, occasionally a 1-5 will be used for crash ball, sometimes the back row have a trot, but generally they're there for 1 reason only, and that is forward work, scrums, rucks, lineouts, they dare not get involved in 'running rugby' which is exactly what Steffon is brilliant at... (amongst other things!)


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