Steffon Armitage has branded England stars supporting his World Cup exclusion as “pretty insulting”.

Toulon flanker Armitage joined Nick Abendanon in criticising Tom Youngs and Tom Wood for suggesting a U-turn on England’s policy of not selecting overseas-based stars could have proved divisive at the World Cup.

Clermont wing Abendanon told BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight he found England squad support of refusing to select foreign-based stars “pathetic”.

Armitage then backed up Abendanon’s comments, in an interview with, questioning those England stars who voiced their concerns.


“I know them, played against them, and to hear them say we’d be a distraction if selected was pretty insulting,” Armitage told Rugby World.

“At the end of the day all we wanted to do was make the team better and I just think it was wrong for players to say what they did. We could have learnt from each other and created more rivalry for places.”

England vowed only to select overseas-based stars in “exceptional circumstances” following the 2011 World Cup, in a bid to keep the top talent in the Aviva Premiership.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has never employed that get-out clause however, despite widespread calls from outside the England camp to find a way to select Armitage.

Former London Irish flanker Armitage has excelled at Toulon, becoming one of the world’s foremost breakdown operators, albeit in a stellar pack and at a club that made history by winning three consecutive European titles.

England’s spectacular World Cup failure has set tongues wagging once again on the viability of the selection policy for stars based abroad.

Armitage admitted he had struggled to keep his counsel on the matter in advance of the World Cup.

“I’ve always done my talking on the pitch and not in the press,” said Armitage. “The coach has his view in not picking me so all I could do was keep playing rugby.

“I hoped I might get in but it didn’t happen and I had to deal with it.”

Armitage said he remains “undecided” on whether he will ever chase a Test return with England.

The 30-year-old was offered a route back into the system when Bath attempted to sign him on loan last season, but he rejected the move.


Armitage also previously explored the potential of representing France having grown up in the country, despite having won five caps for England.

Leicester hooker Tom Youngs was the first to voice concerns over England potentially shifting the selection goal-posts in April, amid rumours of changes to allow the likes of Armitage a route back into World Cup consideration.

“Over the last few years the graft you have done to get into the England squad and then for someone to come from abroad to take your spot, you would be pretty gutted,” he said.

“I don’t know how well it would go down with the whole team.

“It is not just the individual affected, but it is the other guys who might look upon that and might not agree with it.”

Northampton flanker Wood then supported that viewpoint later in the same month.

“I would not like us to back-pedal on our position as it is what we have built our team around,” said Wood, in April.

“As an England team, we have set our stall out quite early and made things clear.

“We have put our hat on it and we should stick to it. It could undermine some of the togetherness we have built.”