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Armitage hits back at claim of arrogance

Date

Mick Cleary

Fullback feels 'victimised' after previous ill discipline.

Controversial hit ... Delon Armitage tackles Chris Paterson in Auckland during the World Cup.

Controversial hit ... Delon Armitage tackles Chris Paterson in Auckland during the World Cup. Photo: AP

Delon Armitage hit back last night (Tuesday) at comments made about him by Andy Robinson, saying he was angered to have been labelled "arrogant" by the Scotland head coach.

Robinson cited the England No.15 for a dangerous tackle on Chris Paterson in the World Cup, adding that he would not have done so if the tackle had been made by England captain Lewis Moody.

Armitage, who was banned for one week as a result, said he felt "victimised", and he expressed annoyance that he had been singled out by Robinson on grounds of his personality. "Of course it did [anger me]," he said. "If ever I were a manager, I wouldn't be throwing out comments like that. I wouldn't be impressed with myself. It's not what you expect.

"I don't see why he wanted to get players cited. If that's what makes him happy, that's fine. I was very disappointed by what he had to say."

Armitage's displeasure was deepened by the fact that he met Robinson after the game, when he claims no reference was made of the tackle.

"It was a bad tackle and I got the one-week ban," Armitage said. "But I'm more disappointed because we spoke after the game. I've a lot of respect for Andy Robinson as a manager and as a player before that. He was England coach when I first started playing. Whether it came from that and he didn't like me at the start of it, I don't know. He had no reason to bring it up.

"If he thought the England team were arrogant, then I'm guilty of arrogance for wanting to play my best for England, for wanting to win a World Cup for England and for wanting to bring back cups for England. If that's arrogant, then I'm guilty."

Given that Armitage has been dropped from the senior England squad and will play for the Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds at Exeter on Saturday, Armitage was puzzled by the timing of Robinson's comments. "I don't see what it has to do with the Six Nations as I'm not even in the Elite Player Squad," said Armitage, who stressed that he wanted to fight for his place in the senior squad even though he has been linked strongly with a move to Toulon.

"I just want to get my England shirt back. There is speculation [about a move]. I know that if I went abroad it would jeopardise my ambition to do that. I want to play for England again. That is my goal.

"Stuart Lancaster [England's head coach] could have left me out completely but this is another opportunity for me with the Saxons. Mike Brown has been playing really well. I've got to get my form back and that's what I want to do. I've not been playing enough rugby."

Four bans in 12 months for ill discipline have not helped his cause. Armitage accepts that he has had a poor year in that regard. He admits to overstepping the mark but feels that there is also a sense of him being censured by past reputation.

"Once you're branded, that's it every single time," Armitage said. "You feel like almost being victimised. I've seen worse things that haven't been pulled up. Once you've made a name for yourself, though, it's hard to get it off your shoulders."

Armitage does recognise that his feisty style of play runs the risk of spilling over into actions that are illegal. "I might get things wrong on the field but I'm a passionate player and sometimes being hungry to win, you're going to get it wrong. I'll put my hand up and say that I've got it wrong more than others, but that's not my intent. I want to be aggressive and play the way I do, but there are rules there.

"People talk about my disciplinary record, but the only problem I ever had with England was that Scotland game. At the end of the day, it's one tackle I got wrong. [My disciplinary record at London] Irish hasn't been the best but I don't worry about it as much as other people do.

"As for the Saxons, I don't see it as a setback, I see it as an opportunity."

The Saxons, who play Scotland B on February 3 following Saturday's match in Exeter, name their side tomorrow (Thursday).

The Telegraph, London

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