Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Armitage Eyes Up World Cup Spot; Full-Back Challenges Foden

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Armitage Eyes Up World Cup Spot; Full-Back Challenges Foden

Article excerpt


DELON Armitage is determined to keep the England full-back jersey for the Rugby World Cup after successfully relaunching his international career, writes ALEX LOWE.

Armitage made the most of his first Test start in 17 months as England began their World Cup preparations with a tough 23-19 victory over Wales.

The London Irish full-back has got his swagger back and he laid down the gauntlet to rival Ben Foden with an eyecatching performance at Twickenham. "I felt like I missed a lifetime of rugby but I am back now and ready to go," said Armitage.

"I have got that hunger again. I really want to be involved for England. I want that 15 shirt.

"I am pushing Ben. I want that shirt back and he knows it."

Foden is likely to get his chance to respond in next Saturday's return match at the Millennium Stadium, before England manager Martin Johnson finalises his 30-man World Cup squad on August 22.

There was a time, particularly last season, when doubts hung over Armitage's chances of securing a place on the flight to New Zealand.

The 27-year-old had enjoyed an outstanding introduction to international rugby in 2008 and he was unfortunate not to win selection for the Lions tour of South Africa the following summer.

But a toxic combination of injury, "broken" confidence, poor form and illdiscipline halted his progress as Foden made the position his own.

Armitage was banned twice last season, including an eight-week suspension for shoving and abusing an anti-doping official that ruled him out of the Six Nations.

But England's management kept the faith and Armitage, solid under the high ball, strong in defence and electric with the ball in hand, repaid them yesterday.

It was as if Armitage had turned back the clock to the 2008-09 season, when he started in Johnson's first Test, having initially not been included in England's 64-man elite squad.

"It did feel like a second start. I was really nervous, it felt like I was starting all over again, a new debut," said Armitage.

"When I saw the 15 jersey hanging up it brought back some awesome memories. I love playing rugby, I love playing for England. …

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