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Heineken Cup
Wilkinson backs Armitage for England recall
ESPN Staff
October 22, 2012
Toulon's Steffon Armitage delights in a score against Castres, Toulon v Castres, Top 14 Orange, Stade Mayol, Toulon, France, April 21, 2012
Steffon Armitage has enjoyed a new lease of life since joining Top 14 side Toulon © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Steffon Armitage | Jonny Wilkinson
Tournaments/Tours: Heineken Cup
Teams: England | France | Toulon

Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has urged England to re-think their policy of not selecting overseas-based players and hand his in-form team-mate Steffon Armitage an international recall.

Armitage, who swapped Premiership side London Irish for the south of France last year, won the last of his five Test caps back in 2010 but a return to top form in both the Top 14 and the Heineken Cup has had many pushing his claims with Wilkinson adding his voice to those insisting his sparkling form cannot be ignored.

"The job that he does is world class and when you are world class you deserve to be in a squad," Wilkinson told BBC Sport following Armitage's latest man of the match performance in his side's Heineken Cup victory over Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

Lancaster will announce his latest squad for the end of year internationals on Thursday with Armitage not expected to feature in the 32-man squad to tackle Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

England's reluctance to call on those players plying their trade outside of the Premiership except in "exceptional circumstances" stems from issues surrounding their availability for training camps throughout the season with French clubs keen to retain their services outside of international windows.

It is not a new policy with Wilkinson one of those to benefit from a softer stance in the build-up to last year's Rugby World Cup and he believes England may be making a mistake by not considering Armitage who was the Top 14's best player last season by respected French newspaper Midi Olympique.

"He is a great player. He is in a league where guys like that are gold dust - guys that can change the passage of the game in a couple of actions and turn difficult defence into good attacking ball. Any team needs it and we are lucky to have him on ours. There are a load of good ones around and I think he is one of the best."

Lancaster has refused to close the door completely, insisting he "would never say never", while Armitage remains focused on doing his best for Toulon who currently lead the Top 14 and are unbeaten in the Heineken Cup.

"I will never say no to England; it is always an honour to play for your country," he said. "I keep my head down and keep trying to get wins out here for Toulon and that is the best way to show people that you have what it takes. If you don't get picked, you don't get picked but I am happy with the way that the rugby is going."

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