Armitage: England player comments are ‘insulting’

Steffon Armitage protects the ball for Toulon

Former England flanker Steffon  has said that it is “pretty insulting” to hear that member of the England Rugby World Cup squad thought he would have been a distraction.

Armitage has achieved great success as a player since he left England to play in France for Toulon which also meant that he was ineligible to play for England as an overseas based player.

The Rugby Football Union has a policy of not selecting England players who play abroad unless there are exceptional circumstances.

England forwards Tom Wood and Tom Youngs said recently that had Lancaster selected foreign-based players it could have affected morale in the squad.

As England captain Chris Robshaw and Armitage play in the same position at open-side flanker the chances of an England call up were always going to be slim.

Mike Brown’s form for England also reduced the possibility of Clermont Auvergne full-back Nick Abendanon being called up.

Abendanon has branded the players who backed the foreign player ruling as “pathetic”.

When asked if Armitage agreed with Abendanon he said, “Definitely. To hear them say we’d be a distraction was pretty insulting.”

There is however a strong argument for the “exceptional circumstances” in both Armitage and Abendanon’s cases as in 2014 Armitage won European Player of the Year and in 2015 the title went to Abendanon.

In an interview with Rugby World, Armitage added: “At the end of the day all we wanted to do was make the team better and I just think it was wrong for players to say what they did.

“We could have learnt from each other and created more rivalry for places.”

Armitage has made a name for himself as a top ball winner at the breakdown which is ironically an area that England struggled against Australia with David Pocock wining regular ball for the Wallabies.

“I do feel sorry for Robshaw because I think he needed some rivalry to push him on,” said Armitage who won five caps for England almost six years ago.

“Whether he’s a world-class seven or not, I can’t judge that, but he always works as hard as he can and gives everything on the pitch.”

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