Rugby Union

Steffon Armitage could play for France

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Former London Irish star Steffon Armitage could be turning out for France, despite having played for England in the past.

The flanker moved to Toulon in 2011, becoming one of their best players, winning the Heineken Cup two years in a row.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) rules state that a player can represent a country where he has completed 36 consecutive months of residence immediately before the time of playing.


Armitage has won five caps for England, but last played for the Red Rose in February 2010, when he faced Italy in the Six Nations.

However, since his move across the channel, the national boss, Stuart Lancaster has been reluctant to select the 28-year-old.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) only allow English stars, playing overseas, to turn out for their country under extraordinary circumstances.

With that in mind, Armitage, who won the European player of year award last term, could choose to take the French up on this new opportunity to show off on the international stage.


Toulon retain Heineken Cup

Head coach Philippe Saint-Andre has found a loophole, where the Trinidad-born star could play for the 15-a-side team, if he features in an Olympic qualification event for the France Sevens.

Looking ahead to the inaugural Olympic tournament of the short-form game, which kicks off in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Games, a player could switch his allegiance, providing he has the correct paperwork and hasn’t played internationally for 18 months.


Armitage will have plenty of opportunity to star for the Sevens side, with France competing in the IRB World Series that awards Olympic places to the top four sides at the end of the season.

Failing to feature then, the flanker may also get the chance to play for Les Bleus in a continental competition, with one country allowed to qualify from a competition governed by the Rugby Europe board.

While it seems quite simple for France to get Armitage into their international squad, the IRB will not allow people to make a mockery of their rules.

“There is a regulations committee that will look at all applications for transfer and they will look to see if it’s for bona fide Sevens reasons,” the IRB chief executive Brett Gosper told Sky Sports.

There is a safety net and any transfer will have to be passed by the committee. They will act according to the spirit of the law.”

Armitage is not the only star that the French are looking to get into their side, with a further nine being viewed, including South African scrum-half Rory Kockott and Aussie number ten Brock James.

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