Armitage Puts His Best Foot Forward for Skipper

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

London Irish full-back, who feared he might miss the Six Nations with injury, praises under-fire Borthwick following five-try win over France. By Chris Jones

ENGLAND 34 FRANCE 10

DELON ARMITAGE today paid tribute to under-fire captain Steve Borthwick following England's extraordinary win over France at Twickenham yesterday.

The London Irish full-back was one of the stars of the show, scoring a scintillating try in the first-half as England completely overwhelmed their opponents to lead 29-0 at the break.

Armitage, who overcame a serious foot injury earlier in the season, said that much of the credit should go to Borthwick, who had endured criticism following defeats to Wales and Ireland.

"Steve led us really well," said Armitage.

"He has taken a lot of stick but carried us forward and lifted us to this great result." Borthwick, who had lost five of his seven matches in charge, produced a much-improved individual performance and thanked manager Martin Johnson for sticking by him.

He said: "Martin Johnson has been absolutely superb. It's hugely important to have a man like Martin behind you and I thank him for his support.

"Yes, he's young in the job, but he has been brilliant and we are all hungry to get better. This is a performance that shows we have made great strides.

"There have been challenges for all of us and we have stuck together. I take great pride in playing for England and yes, lots of people have doubted us but the spirit has been great.

"We have just beaten a very good French side , who had a great win over Wales, and we can improve -- which is exciting." While the result owed much to some thrilling running from a back division led by Armitage and Riki Flutey -- who scored two tries -- and the stoicism of Borthwick up front, there is still some room for improvement.

Although they did manage to keep 15 men on the pitch for the first time in the championship, disciplinary problems persist.

After establishing such a huge lead at the break, England proceeded to lose the second half 10-5 and conceded seven penalties in an 11 minutes period midway through that half which took them perilously close to a seventh yellow card in three matches. …