Delon Armitage targets Saints 'opportunity'
Published: 22 Apr 2011 10:300 comments
DELON Armitage believes London Irish's must-win encounter against Northampton Saints at Madejski Stadium this Saturday (3pm ko) is not just an opportunity for the team to prove themselves, but also for the players to illustrate their international credentials.
Exiles go into the game knowing that anything other than a victory would end their Premiership play-off hopes for this season and guarantee Saints a spot in the top four.
For the likes of Delon Armitage, left, brother Steffon, Topsy Ojo, David Paice and Alex Corbisiero though, there will be the added motivation of competing against players who they are challenging for an England jersey.
"It's a massive opportunity for everyone to prove themselves individually and also as a team," said Delon Armitage, whose main rival for the England full-back position is Saints' Ben Foden.
"It's a huge game for the club, for the players and for the team too. Northampton are a star-studded side with internationals in the team who some of our players would like to be replacing for their countries like Topsy, Paice and Corbs."
Delon Armitage's own efforts to break into the England team ahead of Foden were hampered by his eight-week ban for pushing a doping official and he admits he has been desperate to make up for lost time.
"Eight weeks out was really tough watching the team from the sidelines, I really wanted to comeback, I was excited and really wanted to make amends for letting the team down," he said. "I'm delighted with the way things have gone since coming back, the team is playing really well at the moment, the forwards are playing great and that makes it easy for us in the backs to do our jobs too."
Irish's last league outing was an impressive win against Sale Sharks at the Reebok Stadium and Armitage says playing at the new venue might have helped the visitors.
"It was really good for us to play at a football stadium, it was probably tougher for them, for us it was just like playing at the Madejski with all the blue seats around," he commented.
"It's tough to go away from home, it was great to get a result there though and we had to win that game to keep our hopes going."
The victory in Bolton was just Irish's third away victory of the season and Delon concedes the team didn't cope well enough with their mid-season dip in form.
"We haven't played as well as we could have at stages this season and that has been massively disappointing for all of us. Every team has dips at points in the season but we didn't cope with it very well and we were also hit hard by players leaving for internationals, it was tough. Hopefully it is something that we can learn from and then take into next season," he added.
"There's no question about it now, we have to win our final two games of the season to have any chance of making the play-offs and we'll be doing everything we can to do that."
The England full-back goes into the encounter knowing that it could be the last Irish home game that he plays alongside brother Steffon, who is reportedly in talks with French club Toulon about a move.
"It's a massive decision for Steffon, I've been trying to keep out of it because at the end of the day it's down to him but if he wants advice that he knows that I am here," said Delon.
"It's a huge decision in his life and also his career and it's up to him and the club, he would be a huge loss if he went, both as a player and obviously a brother for me too. I'm happy to give him advice but it's a decision that he has to make."