Toulon back-row Steffon Armitage still has a chance of playing for England and he could be in action at next year’s World Cup.
That is the word from the Rugby Football Union’s chief executive Ian Ritchie who believes the 29-year-old could return to England’s Test side under the exceptional circumstances rule.
Armitage last represented England in 2009, while playing for London Irish, and is currently not considered for selection due to a RFU policy which only allows English-based players to be picked for the national team.
“There is an exceptional circumstances clause,” Ritchie told Sky Sports.
“The usual question is ‘what does that mean?’ By definition almost, you can’t say what is an exceptional circumstance. So who knows what’s going to happen?
“Who knows what happens with injuries, who knows what happens with form but we’re very happy with the policy it’s the right thing in professional rugby.”
Despite winning the Triple Crown, England finished the Six Nations in second place behind Ireland on points difference.
They then lost all three June Tests in New Zealand before losing back-to-back internationals at home to the All Blacks and Springboks.
Despite those two narrow defeats, Stuart Lancaster’s charges bounced back with victories over Samoa and Australia and are now preparing for next year’s Six Nations campaign ahead of the World Cup campaign on home soil.
Ritchie has been impressed by Lancaster’s work since he took over the role as head coach from Martin Johnson in 2012.
“We obviously feel the pressure, you want to feel the pressure,” he added.
“Again, (in) 2015, there’s going to be some, absolutely, tremendously strong pressure on Stuart and the squad.
“You’ve got to look at the underlying trends. We’re in a very good place.
“We played a lot of very good rugby during the year as a whole and we’re going to be even stronger in 2015 with the people coming back.
“If you look at the last three years of what’s happened to the English rugby team, we’ve been in a very good place by comparison to where we were before Stuart took over.
“I think we’re much more integrated, we’ve got a very much connected approach across the Union as a whole.
“I think the team and the squad, any of us who have the pleasure of going to the training camps, can see how powerful the squad is, how connected they are, and I have absolutely no doubts about giving the contract to Stuart that we did.
“I think it’s right to give him and the rest of the coaching team some complete confidence going forward and that they’re completely secure in their positions.”