After leaving England in 2011 to join Toulon, former international back row Steffon Armitage enjoyed his fair share of success in France, most notably as one of Toulon’s ‘Galacticos’, who helped the club win three back-to-back European titles.
His case for international selection was pushed for by fans and pundits alike in the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, although his decision to play in France had made him ineligible for selection by then head coach Stuart Lancaster, with the RFU unwilling to invoke their ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause.
The 34-year-old’s future as a professional rugby player has now been jeopardised, however, with serious reports coming out of France on Monday.
According to the Agence France-Presse, Armitage has been found guilty of sexual assault at the Pau Criminal Court, with the former London Irish back row facing a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of €5,000.
The incident in question occurred in 2018, when Armitage, after a night of drinking, inappropriately touched a 19-year-old woman at a bar. According to his lawyer, Armitage was drunk that night due to not being selected to play Gloucester the next day and that he was struggling to deal with the prospect of life after rugby, as well as the player dealing with the death of his grandmother.
Per the woman’s lawyer, other players from Pau, who Armitage was playing for at the time, told the woman that “she was lucky to be touched by someone famous”. The victim’s lawyer added that it was unacceptable to hear something like that in the 21st century.
Armitage pleaded guilty to the charges and although he is currently without a club, he is due to join up with San Diego Legion in Major League Rugby for the 2020 season.
The back rower also has five England caps to his name, the last of which came against Italy in the 2010 Six Nations. He had been linked on multiple occasions with a return to England, which would have once more made him eligible for international selection.
After first being linked with Gallagher Premiership clubs, he opted to extend his contract with Toulon, before more rumours arose following the 2015 Rugby World Cup, although he ultimately ended up moving to Pau in 2016, where he was playing until his contract ran out earlier this year.
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