Armitage back in England frame
Toulon flanker Steffon Armitage has been told by England boss Stuart Lancaster that 'the door is not wholly closed' regarding his international future.
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The 28-year-old, who is set to feature for the French outfit against Muster in their Heineken Cup semi-final in Marseille on Sunday, held talks with Lancaster in Toulon on Monday in which he clarified the player's future availability.
The Rugby Football Union has a policy of not selecting players outside of the English game and former London Irish stalwart has not represented his country since 2009.
But Armitage and his brother, full-back Delon - who was also in the talks with Lancaster - have been given renewed hope after their meeting.
"Stuart said that the RFU rules are probably not going to change but that the door is not wholly closed," Steffon told the Telegraph.
"England want to put the best team out for the Rugby World Cup and they are just looking into the situation as to what any availability might be for camps and stuff.
"None of that is up to me. All I can do, and want to do, is keep my head down and play as well as I can.
"Of course I'd love to play for England again. I have never given up on that. I knew what the consequences were when I extended my contract but I knew that I wanted to be the best player I could possibly be and that means staying here.
"At least I know now that I am not completely out of people's minds."
Lancaster supports the RFU policy and is aware that several of England's leading players could head to France after the World Cup if those restrictions were eased.
And Armitage, who signed a three-year deal with Toulon in November, knows that his form has not gone unnoticed.
"I'm definitely a better player than when I won my England caps," added Armitage.
"How could you not be, listening and learning from the likes of [South Africa internationals] Joe van Niekerk, Juan Smith, Bakkies Botha or [Argentina player] Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe?
"You have to be on your toes every minute of every day here at Toulon. Fifteen people get signed, 15 leave the club.
"You don't know who will be coming through that door next. Richie McCaw? Very possible. It is what drives me. I've got to be right on top of my game."