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Ex-England and Toulon star Delon Armitage names his Dream Team XV

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bertrand Langlois/AFP via Getty Images)

Delon Armitage enjoyed one heck of a career, the full-back spending nine years in the London Irish first team before embarking on a seven-season adventure in France which took in four glittering years at Toulon before a switch up the country to Lyon.

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The 39-year-old also won 26 caps with Martin Johnson’s England, culminating in a trip to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Now retired, he has been keeping himself busy with some English grassroots coaching at Dorking but is still fondly remembered across the Channel where he was recently inducted into the hall of fame at Toulon, the club where he won three successive Heineken Cup titles as well as a Top 14 championship.

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Ahead of Men’s Health Week, which runs internationally from June 12 to 18, he has been promoting the Real Men Relax campaign in the UK on behalf of Spabreaks.com.

At the end of a soon-to-be-published RugbyPass interview reflecting on the numerous ups and downs in his stellar 16-year career, including his devastation this week that London Irish were suspended by the RFU, he was asked to name a Dream Team XV consisting of players he had played with.

“It was quite a tough team to pick,” he explained prior to listing off his choices. “I was so fortunate to be able to play with these guys. There were so many. At 10 there was (Freddie) Michalak, Quade Cooper. There were a lot of guys I had to leave out.”

Delon Armitage’s Dream Team XV
15. James O’Connor – Toulon
It’s hard to look past yourself but I’d have to go with James O’Connor. After he was at London Irish, he came to Toulon and maybe didn’t get as much game time as he should have, but I thought he was outstanding. His footwork, his kicking, a hard-working full-back. I had Leigh Halfpenny in there as well.

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14. Drew Mitchell – Toulon
I have had the best in the world on the wings. Drew was so skillful, deceptively really quick. People didn’t realise this, and he loved the squat machine so that was probably why he was so explosive and quick.

13. Mathieu Bastareaud – Toulon
He is one of my best friends and if I didn’t say him, didn’t put him in there, he would be upset. I’ll go with Bastareaud. During those Toulon years, he was dominant. He was such a real threat in the midfield that guys [the opposition] had to wait for him, which gave us space on the outside.

12. Matt Giteau – Toulon
A tough one because I have had (Seilala) Mapusua, I have had Matt Giteau and Ma’a Nonu. Looking back at my years, I’ll have to say Matt Giteau. That partnership with him and Jonny Wilkinson was brilliant. I thought they had a great understanding and gave us a lot of ball from it. It was great.

11. Sailosi Tagicakibau – London Irish
Another tough one because I had some really good boys, David Smith, (Alexis) Palisson, Sailosi Tagicakibau and (Bryan) Habana. It’s a tough one… but because I played with him over so many years and saw all the stuff, I’ll have to go for Sailosi. I played with him for seven years at London Irish and that was amazing. He changed the Premiership. He was outstanding.

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10. Jonny Wilkinson – Toulon and England
That’s an easy one, for me the world’s best No10 on and off the field, attitude, everything that rugby should be about.

9. Paul Hodgson – London Irish and England
It’s quite a tough one but I have to go with Paul. The reason for that is he was a hard worker and he saved me a couple of times for being out of position at full-back with last-ditch tackling. He was one of the best at nine. Was always brilliant one-on-one five metres from the line.

1. Clarke Dermody – London Irish
Great leader. He was at London Irish, came from New Zealand. Was a great professional in everything he did. Worked hard and he changed the way we trained at London Irish.

2. David Paice – London Irish
He is actually one of my best mates. He was unlucky not to get more England caps. It was just the timing with the other players that were there. I met him at a young age, we came through the academy together, made it all the way up to the Irish first team. Lovely guy. Came over on a gap year from Australia and got on really well. Loved my time with him.

3. Carl Hayman – Toulon
I have got some big choices. I don’t even know if he is a one or a three, I have got no idea (about the front row), but he is up there. Dominated the Premiership with Newcastle, and with the All Blacks. A really great guy to have on your team and also a really nice, chilled guy off the field. I spent a lot of time with him.

4. Nick Kennedy – London Irish, Toulon, England
A lot of choice here but this guy, when it came to stealing lineouts, was one of the best in the world. Again, unlucky he didn’t have more England caps, but we were making cool plays in the backs with someone else’s lineout. We knew he would steal the lineout and would get it, so that was brilliant.

5. Bakkies Botha – Toulon
When you have got a lineout stealer, you have got to have a heavy hitter in there pulling rucks down and smashing rucks back in the day when we were allowed to, so Bakkies is definitely in there. Was also my neighbour. He always looked after me in France.

6. Juan Martni Fernandez Lobbe – Toulon
Now we are getting into the business side (in the forwards), and I have got to go with Lobbe. He was brilliant, Argentinian. A great captain as well. So skillful and he also gave me that pass for the try in the European Cup final in Dublin, so he has to be in there.

7. Steffon Armitage – London Irish, Toulon, England
It has got to be my brother. Most people didn’t see the hard work he did, but he saved us. The times he stole the ball five metres from the line when top teams in the European Cup were dominating play, the Leinsters, Munsters. He used to get that steal at the right time, get us a win under pressure. So he is in there.

8. Chris Masoe – Toulon
Big, physical, an All Black. A hard hitter, hard runner and awesome barbeques around his house, so he is definitely in there.

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