No room for Armitage - Rowntree

Graham Rowntree has reacted to Steffon Armitage's outstanding form for Toulon by declaring England will continue to overlook players at overseas clubs.

Steffon Armitage has been in outstanding form for Toulon
Steffon Armitage has been in outstanding form for Toulon

Armitage was named man of the match in Sunday's 29-14 Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Leinster and is viewed as one of the expensively-assembled French club's most consistent performers.

The 28-year-old is unable to challenge for Chris Robshaw's place as England's first choice openside due to Twickenham's policy of only selecting players based at foreign clubs in exceptional circumstances.

It is thought that Armitage's conditioning, while acceptable for the attritional rugby played in the Top 14, is considered inadequate for the Test arena.

Misgivings also exist over how he would adapt to the strong squad culture that is a key element of Stuart Lancaster's England.

"Our stance is quite clear - we want to promote those guys playing in England for obvious reasons," forwards coach Rowntree said.

"While they are playing well, we're quite content with that. It's Steffon's decision completely and I'm comfortable with our stance.

"We've got a wider group that is good enough to win the World Cup. And we're showing that we're going the right way towards doing that."

Rowntree has already calculated the various permutations for the composition of his pack for the first Test of the looming tour to New Zealand on June 7.

The staging of the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham seven days earlier will dictate who is available for the series opener in Auckland.

Rowntree is confident that England, who finished runners-up in the recent RBS 6 Nations for a third successive season, will field a formidable pack.

"What will be will be. They're not great cards that we've been dealt, but we'll get on with it," Rowntree said.

"One thing we've shown over the last couple of years is that we'll throw guys in there if we feel they're good enough, regardless of age.

"The situation with the first Test is a major, major plus for us. We can have a look at a good group of players.

"Over the last four months the group has expanded because people have come in and taken their chance.

"We had a perceived under-strength team that was nearly good enough to win the Six Nations.

"We're confident now more than ever in the group of players that we have."

Rowntree played in only one of two England teams to have won in New Zealand, starting the 15-13 victory in Wellington in 2003.

The match was the scene of a famous rearguard action that saw a successions of scrums on their own line defended successfully while Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio were in the sin-bin.

"That was an historic night. I'll never forget Martin Johnson's comment after the game," Rowntree said.

"When he was asked what was going through your mind in the last scrum when we were down to six men, he said: 'my spine'.

"It was a famous victory. We dug in that night. We were a bit fortuitous that they missed a few chances. Hopefully we'll be able to emulate that again.

"We'll have to be on top of our game. We've shown significant strides in how we're playing, none more so than in terms of our attacking shape and all-court running game.

"Along with every other facet of the game, that will have to be at 100 per cent when we go over there.

"You have to go over there with confidence and we'll do that more than ever with the group of players we have. We have a young, confident squad with nothing to lose."

* Graham Rowntree was speaking at an event for QBE, the business insurance specialist, who are committed to supporting the development of rugby through the QBE Coaching Club. Visit www.QBErugby.com