France eye England flanker Armitage for international duty with Les Bleus
Toulon player targeted alongside SA’s Rory Kockott and Australia’s Brock James
Steffon Armitage: last season named European player of the year after helping Toulon win the Heineken Cup and French league title. Photograph: Gaizka Iroz/AFP/Getty Images
Toulon’s Armitage, who won five England caps between 2009 and 2010, is listed alongside South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott and Australian flyhalf Brock James as France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has been tinkering with his halfbacks since taking over from Marc Lievremont after the 2011 World Cup.
Armitage, whose England international brother Delon also plays for Toulon, was last season named European player of the year after helping Toulon win the Heineken Cup and French league title but he has been overlooked for England selection due to Rugby Football Union rules that overseas-based players will be selected only in extraordinary circumstances.
International Rugby Board (IRB) eligibility rules state that a player can play for a country he was born in, one parent or grandparent was born in or in which he has completed “36 consecutive months of residence immediately preceding the time of playing”.
A player who has represented his national team is not normally eligible to play for another country but if he plays in an Olympic-related sevens event then it seems he is now eligible to represent a second nation in the 15-man game.
The IRB, however, warned against unions trying to use the sevens loophole to bolster their 15-man teams.
“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,” said IRB chief executive Brett Gosper.
Meanwhile, the British and Irish Lions could be forced into a name change if Scotland votes for independence next week. John Spencer, England’s representative on the Lions board, told a leading daily newspaper that such a scenario had not yet been mentioned. But he confirmed it would need to be discussed at the next Lions board meeting if the vote was Yes.
The Lions’ next tour is to New Zealand in 2017, for which Spencer has already been confirmed as manager.
It is thought a switch to “The Lions” could be favoured if Scotland decides to leave the UK.
Separately, supporters hoping to purchase tickets for next year’s World Cup had to wait that little bit longer
yesterday when the website – tickets.rugbyworldcup.com – selling the tickets left many with a frozen screen.
Tickets for the tournament in England went on sale at 10am Irish time and despite fans having until September 29th to apply, the official website failed to cope with the tide of applications.
Fans have been advised to try again at a later date as the tickets are being sold as part of an application process and not on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Demand for tickets in Britain is expected to be second only to the London 2012 Olympics and the tournament begins on September 18th next year when England play Fiji at Twickenham.