Name: Steffon Armitage
National: England (5 Caps)
How did you get into rugby initially and was it always your main focus, or did you play a number of sports growing up?
I wasn’t really aware of rugby in my early childhood due to me growing up in Trinidad & Tobago - out there the main focus was on cricket and athletics. However, when I moved over to England my dad took me and my brother down to Richmond to watch them play the Northampton Saints...I think we were first encouraged to get into rugby because Delon and I fought a lot so it was another way of channeling our aggression. Ever since my first training session, rugby has been in my heart.
Who was your first grassroots club and do you still have an affiliation with them? Do you see yourself going back to amateur rugby after you retire?
The first club I played for was Sudbury RFC, however I wasn’t there too long before I moved to Richmond RFC. When I look back at my time with Richmond, I can re live some of my favourite memories, and that probably has a lot to do with the fact that we went 5 years unbeaten! It was great to play with my brother for a season as well!
With regards to being affiliated with the club - it’s safe to say I’ll never forget my times there and i’m a great believer in remembering where you started off! I’d love to be playing until i’m 50 no matter what the team or level...basically as long as my body allows because I really don’t think i’ll be able to stop. I just love the game too much!
How Does Rugby in France Compare to England, both in terms of grassroots and the professional game?
I’d say the grassroots setup in France is definitely behind that of England...Within France, you’re still classed as an academy player until you’re 23 and so it makes it extremely difficult to break into any of the Top 14 sides...especially given the amount of superstars that are coming into the league. In England, no matter what yopur age, if you’re good enough you’ll play.
In terms of the professional game, the Top 14 certainly made me a tougher player, as well as a lot more streetwise.
Why, in your opinion, is rugby so popular at a grassroots level?
I think the main reason for rugby being so popular is that it’s very similar, no matter what level you play at. No matter where you play, whether it be the premiership or the lowest division in the country, the key values in rugby remain the same. One of the key values is friendship and togetherness and I love the fact that the fans of the opposite team can sit alongside each other and enjoy the game....as we’ve seen at Euro2016, this isn’t possible in football.
What’s more, in rugby everyone has each others back...you know that the other 14 lads on the field will support you no matter what! That’s a great feeling to have.
What do you think of what E4R are Trying to Achieve? Do you think it’s necessary?
I think it’s totally necessary!
Not only do they help clubs, players, supporters of the grassroots game with all kinds of support but they are helping to inspire a new generation of rugby players.
I’m a huge fan of the camps they run, where they get legends of the game such as Carl Hayman and Mark Cueto to teach kids, not just rugby skills, but how to act and be disciplined. It’s not just a rugby lesson but a life lesson, and I love that. I still get goosebumps speaking to Carl Hayman, so I can’t imagine how it feels for some of the kids.