Armitage vows to perform for England

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Delon Armitage vowed never to let his team-mates down again as he offered a brutally honest assessment of his performance in England's 30-17 victory over Wales.

The London Irish full-back feared he would be dropped for Sunday's Valentine's Day clash with Italy in Rome after his least impressive game in an England jersey.

Armitage refused to take any credit for the vital interception which led to James Haskell scoring the match-winning try, claiming it was "a bit of luck".

But after conducting some harsh self-analysis, Armitage is now determined to redeem himself against the Italians having retained his place ahead of Northampton's Ben Foden.

"I was very disappointed about the Welsh game. We still won but on a personal level it was the worst game I have played for England," said Armitage.

"I felt I let the boys down. I wasn't in a very good mood on Saturday night and I sulked a little bit.

"I spent a bit of time at home reviewing the game. That self-analysis is an important part of the process so I knew exactly what I needed to work on and didn't have to come in and get told by the coaches.

"So is the honesty. I put my hand up in the meeting and said 'I let you down, I will be better next week for you guys'.

"But I was pretty nervous about selection. Ben Foden is a great player. He has been playing really well, he is putting the pressure on and I'm feeling it.

"I am glad I have another opportunity. I feel I have a chance to repay the guys, repay the coaches. The Italy game can't come soon enough because the seven-day wait has been killing me."

Armitage was England's player of the year last season and he started 11 consecutive Test matches, scoring five tries, before shoulder surgery ruled him out of the autumn international campaign.

But it was a sign of Armitage's standing in the England set-up that Johnson picked him to play in the Wales game after just five appearances back for London Irish.

"That is why I am so disappointed. The England coaches put their trust in me and I disappointed them. I don't ever want that to happen again," Armitage explained.

Foden, who is growing in stature as a top-class full-back almost by the week, is chomping at the bit for an opportunity and Armitage knows it.

"My focus now is on Italy and keeping that 15 shirt. Another performance like the Wales game and I will be struggling - and Foden would deserve it," he said.

"At international level, you are out there to do your job and if are not doing it properly you don't deserve to be there.

"I was still a bit rusty against Wales. Against Italy I have got to make amends straight away. I want to get back to where I was playing for England, being solid at the back."

Armitage also offered England a sharp cutting edge from deep, which they missed during the autumn as first Ugo Monye and then Mark Cueto stood in at full-back.

Now united as a back-three unit they were quiet against Wales as England struggled to move the ball wide in the face of Shaun Edwards' fast-moving blitz defensive system.

Italy, by their very nature, will look to turn the game into a slug-fest but Armitage insisted England must improve their attacking game if they are to triumph in Rome.

"It was a good win against Wales but we have done nothing yet," said Armitage.

"We need to start playing rugby. As a back line we need to start cutting teams. We need to get the wingers in space.

"The forwards are doing good work and it is our turn to repay them with tries.

"We know Italy have quite a narrow drift defence so if we can get the ball to Ugo and 'Cuets' early doors I am sure we can cause problems."

Johnson will confirm the make-up of his bench tomorrow afternoon, having delayed the announcement due to concerns over injury and illness.

Captain Steve Borthwick has not trained all week after contracting a bug, and Simon Shaw was laid low on Wednesday while there is an injury cloud over Lewis Moody.

Johnson insisted all three will be fit to play and he is confident prop David Wilson will have shaken a neck problem to be involved from the bench.