Armitage joins French Top 14 Rugby club Toulon

London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage has signed a two-year deal with French Top 14 side Toulon, the club’s president and owner Mourad Boudjellal announced Friday.

Toulon coach Philippe Saint-Andre met with the Englishman on the fringes of the recent Six Nations tournament. The meeting led to the 25-year-old ending his five-year spell with Irish, whom he joined from Saracens in 2006.

“He’s a very fast player and very powerful, given his size and his weight,” Saint-Andre told AFP.

Armitage stands 1.75 metres tall and weighs around 103 kg.

“He can also play at centre and he speaks French,” added Saint-Andre.

New teammate and compatriot Jonny Wilkinson added: “He’s a very professional player… very good in defence and he’s a big threat when he’s running with the ball.”

Armitage’s arrival has made Australian George Smith’s mooted departure for Japan’s Sanyo Wild Knights all the more likely.

He is also one of several players signed by the club with a view to boosting their side for next season.

Toulon expect to confirm the arrivals of Fijian back row players Seva Rokobaro and Jone Tawake in the coming days. Rokobaro plays for Aix-en-Provence while Tawake plays for fellow French second division side Narbonne.

Australian international fly-half Matt Giteau is also set to arrive in time for next season, as will South African Bakkies Botha, Welsh international Eifion Lewis-Roberts, scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres), Brive winger Alexis Palisson and Pau fly-half Julien Dumora.

Toulon were eliminated from the quarter-finals of the European Cup last weekend at the hands of fellow Top 14 side Perpignan.

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