Delon Armitage can tame Leicester TigersBy Steve Williams
May 15, 2009
London Irish head coach Toby Booth is backing Delon Armitage to heap more Guinness Premiership final agony on Leicester Tigers at Twickenham tomorrow (Live on Sky Sports, 5.30pm).
Irish go into the first-ever play-off final as rank outsiders against a Tigers side that has been in the last four finals, but whose last triumph at Twickenham came back in 2004 when they beat Sale Sharks 48-27.
Irish have lost to the Midlanders – albeit by narrow margins – twice this season. But while Tigers are the Premiership’s form side, surely Irish possess in England international Delon Armitage the form back of the season.
His explosive performances from the back and at centre have turned him into one of the hottest properties in the English game.
And Booth said: “You can argue cases about different full backs in the Premiership – they are very good players, but have they got the skill sets to be an international full back?
“At No 13, distribution skills to be able to pass and defend are probably more front line than they are at full back and Delon has also got those.
“But the one thing about Delon is that he’s a massive competitor when you get into the situation where the skill sets become more equal.
“Rugby’s an attritional game, it’s all about who wants to compete most and Delons’s got that in abundance.”
Booth though, knows his side face an enormous test against the Tigers.
He said: “They are such a street-wise side and are the in-form side at the moment .
“They’ve played some massive games this season and in the past four or five years, with that group of players, they are very experienced and know what they have to do.
“When you’ve got people like Sam Vesty controlling the game and the forwards delivering the type of ball that he likes it’s very hard to stop and we are going to have to be on top of our game to match them.
“They are a formidable side, they are the form side and here we go.”
Another of Irish’s explosive talents is young wing Adam Thompstone.
He will be tasting the big-time atmosphere for the first time in his short professional career having moved from Quins last season and made his senior Irish debut back in October against Worcester.
The 21-year-old admitted: “I couldn’t even have dreamt this at the start of the season. I would have been happy with just a couple of first-team games under my belt and anything more than that was a plus.
“Obviously you are nervous because it’s a big step up but I’m enjoying every minute of it to be honest.”
Tigers are stacked with talent but will be without injured England stand-off Toby Flood.
Vesty has played at No 10 in recent weeks and has performed superbly.
Ireland wing Johne Murphy is their top try-scorer, while full-back Geordan Murphy and centre Danny Hipkiss add spice to a back line fed by scrum-halves Julien Dupuy and Harry Ellis.
There’s a wealth of riches in the front-row where Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni are likely to start leaving England prop Julian White on the bench.
Ben Kay is in the second row, while England’s forgotten man Lewis Moody could start alongside No 8 Jordan Crane and Ben Woods.