‘The overseas rule must be binned now’
Armitage urges England to scrap selection policy
represent Steve Borthwick’s team. That’s because he was given special dispensation to do so by the RFU after losing his job when Wasps entered administration.
The issue is not going away. More players are quitting the cash-strapped Premiership for better money and lifestyle in France. Jack Nowell is joining la Rochelle and follows his Exeter and England team-mates Sam Simmonds and luke Cowan-dickie.
‘ People will say I had the chance to come back to England. It wasn’t as easy as that,’ Armitage says. ‘Stuart sat down with me in 2014. He said they couldn’t relax the rule, that I had to come back and there was a good chance I’d play if I was in England. It frustrated me they didn’t try harder.
‘If I had to turn down England, it would be for Toulon. There was frustration but I was also creating history with Toulon the club will never have again.
‘To say I was part of that helps me when I know I didn’t play in a World Cup. I wish I could have had more caps but I still represented my country and with my brother, too. I’ve no regrets.’
With Armitage absent, England bombed out of their home World Cup in 2015 and Armitage never featured at international level again. Yet, he is more than happy with his lot. After stints at Pau and Biarritz after Toulon he is now with Nice in the French third tier.
Conversation turns to England’s 53-10 thrashing by France. ‘Either England crumble when they go to Ireland because being humiliated by France is still in their heads,’ Armitage says, ‘or they’ll go the other way. I think that will happen. England need to use this as a learning curve. We’ll see who the players we can rely on are. It was tough for me to watch. I watched it at the club. luckily, most of the Nice boys think I’m French!’