Delon’s dazzling comeback is big bonus for IrishBy Alan Manicom
December 23, 2009
It was no surprise to coach Toby Booth that Delon Armitage capped his comeback from shoulder surgery by scoring the last-minute bonus-point try that cements London Irish’s position at the top of Heineken Cup Pool 6.
The Exiles boss admitted that the England full-back has been pushing to return from his three-month lay-off with some sensational displays in practice.
But Booth revealed he was reluctant to risk Armitage from the start in Saturday’s 34-13 win over Brive at Madejski Stadium.
He said: “Delon has been excellent for the last two weeks in training. I think he showed his true class and said ‘give me ball and I will show you what is going to happen’.
“It was fate. It was always going to be him.
“It was planned for him to have 15 minutes. He was fit to start, but he had been off for a while and you want to drip-feed these players in.
“It’s also good to send a message to everyone else that no-one gets treated differently, so it is important from a man-management point of view of your whole squad.
“The greatest thing that you can say about that is Delon didn’t expect to start. He would have liked to, but he completely understands the position and it’s all part of the rehabilitation.”
Booth added: “It was good for Delon to remember all the stuff that goes on around the pitch as well.
“That’s the sort of thing you miss when you have been out for a long time. That’s where you become a bit sharper and game-ready and contact-ready. It was a good exercise all round.
Armitage’s stunning comeback is also good news for England boss Martin Johnson.
Booth said: “He’ll easily be ready (for the Six Nations). He’s ready now. It’s just a question of being realistic and feeding people in.”
A delighted Armitage admitted that scoring such a crucial try made it a better return to action than even he could have expected.
He said: “I could only have dreamt that. I was so excited. I am so happy to be back.
“I’ll be knocking at the management’s door because I want to feature and be No.15 for London Irish.” said the 26-year-old, who England so sorely missed last month. “I’ll be trying to put pressure on them and what better way to do that than to come on and score?
“I don't want to change the way I play. I want to counter-attack and I want the wingers to do the same. When I play, my first instinct is to have a go and then kick if it is not on.
“It was a brilliant comeback for me after being injured for so long.
“Martin Johnson and the guys will be watching these games and this is where I need to perform if I want any chance of getting back into the England team.”
After losing flying wingers Adam Thompstone and Sailosi Tagicakibau to injury, Irish’s tries dried up.
But Exiles have now scored nine in their last two games against Brive.
And Booth said: “Last week we thought let’s tear up the rulebook and do what we do. After that you have seen two bonus-point victories so there is a big message for me there.
“Everyone says we have been struggling, but I don’t see a lot of others banging the door down.
“The thing about the Premiership is that because of the analysis, people know so much about each other and it makes things quite tight.
“When you see massive scorelines it is often due to a mis-match in ability of the teams. In the Guinness Premiership there is no mis-match.
“Leeds took a while to get going, but are now back up there. As a result there are competitive teams right the way from one to 12 and you can see that by the win-loss column.
“Bath have lost the majority of their games by less than four points.
“It’s all very well people making grand sweeping statements about there being no tries, but you have to remember the quality of the competition because it does play a part.”