Toulon back-row Steffon Armitage is reportedly set to turn his back on England and make himself available to play for France.
Toulon back-row Steffon Armitage is reportedly set to turn his back on England and, instead, make himself available to play for France.
Armitage is the current Heineken Cup Player of the Year, and a two-time Heineken Cup winner with current Top 14 champions Toulon.
Despite representing England in five Tests, since his international debut in 2009, he is unable to play for them due to his country's policy of forbidding the selection of players based overseas, except in “exceptional circumstances”.
Those exceptional circumstances – essentially when there's a crisis amongst England's loose forwards – means Armitage has very little chance of playing at the World Cup.
The 28-year-old last played for England in 2010 and a loophole with regard to the qualification regulations for the Olympic Sevens in 2016 could open a door for him to play for France.
According to that regulation, Test players, who have not represented their country for 18 months and have the requisite passport of another country can then represent that country.
The regulation means they could play in the 2014/15 Sevens World Series, and thereafter they can also represent that same country in the 15-man game.
According to a report in The Telegraph, Armitage does not have a French passport yet but he is trying to obtain one.
If Armitage manages to get his French passport he is set to meet the French Rugby Federation or the International Rugby Board to discuss the possibility of playing for France.
Last year England coach Stuart Lancaster traveled to France and met with Armitage and his brother Delon to discuss their international future.
“He came over to explain the situation,” Steffon told The Telegraph.
“He said I can't be picked for the autumn and that I can't be picked for the Six Nations, so at the moment I'm just doing my best to stay fit and keep my head down.
“If it happens close to the World Cup that he picks me for the training camps, then it happens, but until then all I can do is focus on each game.
“The World Cup is more than a year away and a lot can happen. He said he has kept an eye on me and is happy, but there's rules and they have to stick by them.”
Armitage's back row partner at Toulon, veteran South African flanker, Juan Smith was recently called up by the Springboks for the upcoming rugby Championship.
Smith has sympathy for Armitage and hopes England's selection policy changes soon.
“I think they must look at the rule that they don't pick overseas players,” said Smith.
” Going to the World Cup you need to play the best players from your country.
“Personally I think it is a stupid rule. Hopefully they will look at it.”