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Armitage may return to England ahead of World Cup

October 14, 2014

LONDON (AP) — Steffon Armitage could leave European champion Toulon and return to English club rugby in a bid to make England’s squad for next year’s World Cup.

Despite his superb form for Toulon over the past two seasons, the dynamic flanker has been overlooked by his country because he plays in France, and overseas-based players are picked by England only under “exceptional circumstances.”

With less than 12 months until the World Cup is staged in England and Wales, Armitage appears to be willing to move back to the English Premiership and make himself available for England coach Stuart Lancaster.

Bath coach Mike Ford said his club has spoken to Armitage but a deal has not been agreed.

“It did get pretty close to him coming, but it’s not happened,” Ford said on Tuesday. “It’s bit of a shame really for Steffon, Bath and England.

“Ultimately he was happy to leave the European champions to play for England at the World Cup.”

If Armitage is to return to England, a transfer would likely need to be completed this week before the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup this weekend. If he plays for Toulon in the competition, he would be cup-tied for any potential new club.

Armitage, who is the reigning European player of the year, has played five times for England but not since 2010, and had been exploring the possibility of changing nationalities so he could play for France.

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