Armitage looks past Lions disappointment
June 4, 2009
England fullback Delon Armitage is relishing his opportunity to play at Old Trafford alongside his brother © Getty Images
England fullback Delon Armitage is determined to put his misery at being overlooked by the British & Irish Lions behind him when he runs out to face Argentina at Old Trafford on Saturday alongside his younger brother, the openside flanker Steffon.
The Armitage boys are all set to start their second Test together after becoming the first set of siblings to represent England since the Underwood brothers in 1995 when they lined up against Italy in the Six Nations at Twickenham in February.
The occasion will not be lost on Armitage, although he is struggling to get past the disappointment of missing out on a Lions call after an excellent first Test season. With Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy the latest to be called up for South Africa, Armitage says he is focusing on his job with England.
"I was really, really disappointed about it," he said. "I still need to get over it a little bit. It just seems like they're doing everything not to pick me. I've got to get over it and enjoy playing for England which I have been. There's a big opportunity this weekend to play at Old Trafford - I've never even been there as a supporter so to go there and play a game is going to be massive, and even more so now that I've got my little brother there with me."
The brothers both started the 2009 season in the England side, but Steffon did not feature again in the Six Nations after England's error-strewn display against the Azzurri. Despite sterling club form he appeared to be surplus to Martin Johnson's international plans and was forced to be content with spearheading London Irish's charge to the Guinness Premiership final. Delon is pleased to see his brother back in white, and puts his below-par debut down to nerves and youthful exuberance.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "He was very nervous before the game and tried to do a bit too much, rather than just do what he does for London Irish. Now he's got a second chance, I'll give him a little advice but younger brothers don't listen to older brothers!
"I'll give him a few words: 'go out and enjoy it, smile and have fun'. Things will come right. Don't try and win the game yourself or do anything over the top. He's very excited; he got London Irish in to the finals and deserves his shot. This is his time to prove everyone that he deserves to be in this England squad."
On a personal note Armitage will have plenty to play for on Saturday despite arguably being one of the first names on the England team sheet - his pride in his performances a constant driving force.
"I don't ever want to feel that I've done enough," he said. "There's still a lot to work on, I want to keep getting better. I want to be in an England team that everyone remembers for winning tough games and being the No.1 team in the world. I'm not happy with just being on the team sheet on the weekend, I want to be in a team that are winning things and have big ambitions. I want to strive to win things and there a lot of guys, young guys, being given a shot so the future is bright for England."
The future begins with a tough task this weekend against a Pumas side that mirrors the rebuilding steps currently being undertaken by England. Despite a number of key players having retired since their third-place finish at the 2007 World Cup they are a dangerous side and packed with players that Armitage considers genuine threats.
"It's going to be physical, especially in the forwards," he said. "Our defence is going to have to be 100% better than it was against the Barbarians. [Gonzalo] Tiesi in the centre, he's one of the best defenders one-on-one and [Juan Martin] Hernandez has the biggest boot I've ever seen, especially with drop-goals.
"We know it's going to be a big, tough game and we're going to have to man up. On the sheet it's an away game but we're still in England and it's a dream for some of the guys to be playing at Old Trafford. Argentina aren't here to finish off their season, they're here to beat us in our back yard."
Delon Armitage was speaking on behalf of the England Rugby team who are supporting this summer's O2 Scrum on the Beach series. For more information visit www.o2.co.uk/playon
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.