Another day, and yet another report of Steffon Armitage’s potential recall to the England squad, this time from The Times.
This particular report claims that Armitage could be set to receive a recall to the England squad for this years World Cup under the exceptional circumstances rules, nothing new there right? Well this time round it is being claimed that Armitage would remain ineligible for the upcoming Six Nations in 2015 as the exceptional circumstances clause would only be applicable to a World Cup on home soil.
Now we’ve been big fans of Armitage at ITL for some time now and have regularly called for his inclusion in the England squad, however this potential unfolding of events seems completely baffling to even us. How can you possibly even begin to justify including a play in the squad who hasn’t played for his country in the last five years?
Realistically if he is to have even the slightest chance of making an impact for England at the World Cup then he needs to be selected for the Six Nations and be given time to properly bed into the team. For years now Stuart Lancaster has been focussing on building cohesive units throughout the team and developing experience so this move seems completely counterintuitive.
The other issue is that of the existing back row options for England. So far Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and Ben Morgan have formed an impressive unit, that whilst not quite world class, certainly haven’t been put to shame by any of the sides they’ve played in the last year or two. Surely to go to such extremes to select Armitage is to simply indicate to these players that they are not considered good enough?
Whilst I still wouldn’t be adverse to seeing Armitage called up by England, for me this should happen when Lancaster names his Six Nations squad in the next few weeks rather than waiting until just before the World Cup. This would then give Armitage enough time to be in, learn the systems and actually prove he is still capable of competing on the international stage.
Failing this England need to reiterate their position of not selecting players based overseas to put the Armitage situation to bed. This would remove the distraction of continual speculation around his potential inclusion and ensure that the current England back rowers can focus on the job of preparing for the World Cup rather than worrying about keeping their starting shirt.