Armitage brothers pumped up for Six Nations opener

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The Independent Online

Steffon Armitage admitted his heart was pounding after being called up for England alongside brother Delon for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy at Twickenham.

No wonder. Life for the family Armitage might never be the same again.

The last time brothers turned out for England, Rory and Tony Underwood in 1995, their mum Annie was called upon to tackle Jonah Lomu in an advert for Pizza Hut.

The Armitages' mum, Verna, might not be pressed into such energetic service this time but for Delon and Steffon it is the culmination of a remarkable journey which has taken them from Trinidad to France to London Irish and finally to pulling on the famous white jersey with the red rose.

Full-back Delon, at 25 the older brother by two years, made his England debut against the Pacific Islanders in November and was voted the best home player in the autumn series of internationals against the southern hemisphere.

Now Steffon, a dynamic ball-carrier who gets his chance at openside flanker in the absence of the injured Lewis Moody and Tom Rees, is hoping to make it a family double success.

Steffon said: "I'm pretty happy we're both in there and so proud of Delon for getting there before me.

"My heart is still pumping to finally get the call. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I can't sleep before any game. I get so nervous and go into every game thinking it's my last one because I want to do my best in every game."

The Armitages are the ninth set of siblings to play in the same England team since Reginald and Louis Birkett back in 1875.

Few of those could have arrived by a more circuitous route.

The Armitages were born in San Fernando, Trinidad, two of five brothers. They were football-mad and their original sporting hero was former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke.

The family moved to England where Verna married the boys' English stepfather, John Armitage, after a holiday romance. They had barely unpacked the suitcases when the family moved once more, this time relocating to the south of France where the brothers joined the Racing Club of Nice and came through the French system.

At that time Delon, who played for France Under-16s three times, was deemed too tall and skinny to make it as an international threequarter. Steffon was thought to be too small for a back-row forward and often played scrum-half.

It is a tribute to their perseverance and the perception of London Irish that, having returned to England, they made it to the highest level.

Delon said: "It hasn't sunk in yet. Playing on my own was brilliant but to have my brother there now, I'm speechless.

"If we get a chance to stand next to each other at the national anthem we probably will sing together and probably shed a couple of tears."

During the game, they will also support each other, as they have done throughout their careers.

Delon said: "We've got to concentrate on our own games, but we'll have little talks in the game to keep us on the right track. If he makes a mistake I'll give him a tap on the shoulder like I would at London Irish to make sure he forgets about it because there's no point dwelling on things."

After the serial surrenders in the autumn a band of brothers might just be what England require.