sport

Armitage scoops European crown

Back-row Steffon Armitage was named ERC European Player of the Year on Monday just days after helping Toulon win the Heineken Cup.

Armitage played an influential role throughout the French club's campaign, including a man-of-the-match display in their 23-6 final triumph over Saracens at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Toulon became only the third side to defend the Heineken Cup title and Armitage's contributions were vital, with the dynamic No 8 forcing more turnovers than any other player in the competition, as well as featuring in the top ten in the carries, tackles and defenders beaten statistics.

Armitage takes the European Player of the Year crown from Toulon team-mate and captain Jonny Wilkinson, who was also shortlisted, as well as Saracens trio Chris Ashton, Schalk Brits and Jacques Burger.

"This is a great honour, and with us winning another Heineken Cup as well, everything has come together at the right time," Armitage said.

"There are a lot of big names at Toulon, but we're like one big family and without my teammates, this individual award wouldn't have been possible.

"Also, to follow in the footsteps of Jonny Wilkinson as a winner is really special."

The five-cap England forward has missed out on international selection through playing in the French Top 14, but a remarkable season has led to call for head coach Stuart Lancaster to break the mould and look beyond the Aviva Premiership.

Armitage now joins an illustrious list of players who have won the highest individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby. Wilkinson, became on the fourth captain to lift the Heineken Cup more than once, was last year's winner and previously, the award went to Leinster duo Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien, with Ronan O'Gara of Munster winning the inaugural award in 2010.