By Tom Masters, Sportsbeat
Delon Armitage admits he wishes he could roll back the years and be part of London Irish’s free-flowing ‘champagne rugby’ at the Gtech Community Stadium.
Armitage, 38, starred at full-back in London Irish colours for a decade between 2002 and 2012, making 165 appearances for the Exiles.
That culminated in Irish reaching the Premiership final in 2009, with Armitage also earning 26 England caps.
But the former Toulon and Lyon star thinks playing alongside the likes of Henry Arundell, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Will Joseph would be a joy and wishes he was plying his trade in Declan Kidney’s setup.
He said: “I’m really enjoying watching them at the moment, as a former player there, we had a really good year in 2009.
“But now to see them coming back and playing such exciting rugby, I almost wish I was young enough to get back into that squad and be part of it.
“Every week I go and see them play, and whether they’re winning or losing - it’s such good rugby and it makes the crowd want to go down, and that’s what you want to see - full stadiums at the weekend with champagne rugby.
“But at London Irish there are several amazing young options, obviously Arundell, but also Ollie Hassell-Collins and Will Joseph – so it’s just a really exciting time there right now.”
The player who epitomises everything about the modern era of London Irish is Arundell, 19, who has quickly risen to the very top with a collection of stunning tries scored for both club and country.
And Armitage believes the sky is the limit for Arundell, who stunned Australia on debut with yet another sublime try.
Armitage, speaking at special event alongside Mike Tindall and James Haskell at Aylesbury RFC as part of the RFU’s ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ initiative, added: “He’s been outstanding, he’s so good to watch, the way he counter attacks and the way he plays the game is just brilliant.
“We’ve always been very good at bringing up very good back three players at Irish, so he is at the right place for the future.
“The fact he has got into the England set up at an early age shows he is maturing very fast and he is certainly one to watch.
“He’d been playing really well all off last season and deserved his call-up I thought, as we know with England, you’re only ever renting a shirt.
“It’s all about your performance, it’s all about taking your opportunity and I think he did that well and that is why he is back in the squad again.
The RFU’s Play Together, Stay Together campaign is aimed at reminding rugby fans of all the benefits that come with playing rugby. Whether it’s the physical benefits of regaining your fitness, or the mental benefits of being surrounded by a like-minded group of people, there’s always a reason to head back to your local club.