Pau flanker Steffon Armitage has revealed that he hated rugby towards the end of his time with Toulon and that he now wants to prove people wrong with Top 14 strugglers Pau.
The 31-year-old flanker signed with Pau during the summer after five years with Toulon and in a fascinating interview with Planet Rugby’s Ben Coles, Armitage opens up on his strenuous relationship with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal and how Boudjellal drove him to a point where he literally hated rugby.
“I can’t really say I interacted with [Boudjellal],” Armitage told Coles.
“He didn’t interact with anyone. He is a special kind of guy, in every way possible… but at the end of the day he kind of made me want to hate Toulon when I was leaving, by making it difficult.
“He was quite happy to get rid of me but he was making crazy offers for me to leave, in terms of transfer fees and everything.
“That was a horrible part after spending five years at the club, and then to go through all of that. I literally hated rugby.”
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Armitage does however look back on his time with Toulon with fond memories and said that he’d never forget the incredible success he had with the club during his five years there.
The former England international said that playing for Toulon took his career to the ‘next level’, and that current Pau forwards coach Carl Hayman really helped him develop during their four years together at the club.
Armitage said that such was the influence that the former All Blacks prop had on him during their time at Toulon, that Armitage was willing to repay Hayman for his guidance by signing for Pau who appointed the New Zealander as their Forwards Coach at the end of last season.
“In the end it was an easy decision,” said Armitage.
Obviously it would have been good to join my brother [Delon] at Lyon to carry on playing with him.
But I felt like I needed to try and create something different.
And the best place was to give Carl Hayman a chance to succeed as a coach, and I said I would do whatever I can to try and make it easy for him by giving him a go, because he has helped me along my way for quite a while.
Sometimes it isn’t the things that people say that makes you respect the most.
It’s what they do. Carl is one of those guys. You saw him on the pitch, for a prop to do 70, 80 minutes these days, week in week out, is an amazing thing.
The way he leads the team, he makes people follow him.
Then there are the little things, the days you come in when you feel a little bit down, or not playing, and he will be in your ear saying ‘don’t worry, I have faith in you’.
Perhaps one of Armitage’s most fascinating revelations will leave England fans wondering what could have been.
Recalling England’s tour of Australia in 2010, Armitage felt betrayed after the coaching had told him he was their number one flanker, but selected Lewis Moody for all three tests.
In 2010 I had one of my best seasons with London Irish. We went to Australia and [Lewis] Moody had played 30 minutes of Premiership rugby in the last six months, and he ended up starting all three Tests, even though they had told me I was the number one flanker.
Now it has just got to the point where, do I go back and hope I get in… but it doesn’t matter if you are good enough, or if you are the best?
I think that [Danny] Cipriani has been playing awesome rugby – how is he not in the team? He has been overlooked every single time. That is the way I look at it. Sometimes it is not just all about who is the best player.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena
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