Armitage criticism a cop-out

Date published: April 29 2015

Critics of Steffon Armitage playing for England are just looking for excuses according to Toulon teammate Drew Mitchell.

The decision over whether Armitage should feature in England's World Cup squad despite plying his trade outside the Premiership, has sparked a lot of discussion, with Tom Youngs the first current England player to speak out against it.

Others have followed suit, but Mitchell, who last week became eligible to play for Australia after they relaxed their own policy on selecting overseas players, has questioned the motives of those speaking out against the flanker.

"To be honest, I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. That’s just people who are based in England who are raising queries because perhaps they, or a friend, might miss out if Steffon comes in," he said.

"If one guy is capable of disrupting the group culture, I guess the focus would have to be: how strong is that culture? Steffon’s a very adaptable, likeable guy. He can adapt in any group I’ve seen him in. 

"He’s a very well-liked member of our squad and to say he would disrupt the environment is quite naive. What he brings on the field is world class and off the field he’s a really good bloke as well. It would be a real shame if they use that as an excuse not to pick him."

Armitage is set to start in this weekend's European Champions Cup final, and has again been nominated for European Player of the Season, an award he won for the first time a year ago.

While his form in France has been excellent, it appears that won't be enough for England to invoke their 'exceptional circumstances' clause, and while Mitchell admits it will help Australia, who are in the same pool, he feels it's a shame to ignore what Armitage can bring.

"If you’re looking at the England squad they probably don’t have anyone who plays his style of game,” Mitchell added. 

"A high turnover rate, a strong ball-carrier, a good running game and someone who links well with backs and forwards. I think he would really add some value to the England squad.

"He’s been consistently playing well over a number of seasons. Steffon won the European player of the year award last season and has been nominated again this year.

"Part of me hopes he’s not included because it’s a pretty tough World Cup pool already. But Steffon’s a good mate of mine and I would really like to see him get what he deserves and play again for England."