Armitage facing uncertain Exiles future
February 1, 2012
Delon Armitage faces an uncertain future at London Irish © Getty Images
London Irish boss Toby Booth has refused to rule out the possibility of releasing rebellious fullback Delon Armitage at the end of the season.
Armitage was kicked out of the England Saxons squad on Monday following his latest breach of discipline. The Exiles fullback has been linked with a move to Toulon - along with Nick Kennedy - where he would join his brother Steffon Armitage. But even if that protracted move fails to materialise, London Irish are launching an internal club investigation to determine the facts behind Armitage's arrest. With 26 England caps to his name, Armitage was part of the 2011 World Cup squad, but his latest controversy will do little to appease his doubters.
The fullback was suspended for eight weeks after he pushed a doping officer following a Premiership game between London Irish and Bath last January. Then he received a three-week punishment for striking Northampton fly-half Stephen Myler, and he also collected a one-match ban during the World Cup campaign in New Zealand after a high tackle on Scotland full-back Chris Paterson. Armitage was then hit with a five-week suspension for a dangerous tackle on Bath wing Tom Biggs, and a three-week ban for kneeing Bath lock Dave Attwood in the same game which ran concurrently.
And when Booth was asked whether it may be time for Armitage to look elsewhere with his contract at the Exiles up at the end of the season - or even release the fullback come the summer - the Exiles coach told the Daily Mail: "That's always a possibility, but I'm not going to get drawn down a route until I have a full understanding of what has gone on - and at this stage I have no idea. Until we as a club are aware of all the facts, we can't act in a positive or negative way.
"We should be talking about what Delon Armitage does on the pitch, but we're not and we have to think about what effect that has on the people around him."
And England coach Stuart Lancaster expressed his regret over the Armitage incident but admitted he was left with no option other than to suspend the 28-year-old. "The message will get through," Lancaster told the Daily Telegraph. "It just takes time and some of it is getting players to understand that you don't put yourself in vulnerable situations where you can get yourself in trouble.
"It's extremely disappointing and it has taken a lot of gloss of the good work we did in Leeds last week as well as the gloss of Chris's appointment. There was no other option but to suspend him until the case is finalised."
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