YOU COULD forgive Exeter Chief’s Don Armand if he was the most frustrated man on the planet.
England’s back row during the Six Nations was crying out for his no-nonsense ball-carrying, clearing out and ability as a general nuisance, but he was ignored by Red Rose boss Eddie Jones until too late.
Granted a paltry 13 minutes of the final match against Ireland, when the game was lost and only pride was there to be salvaged, Armand made an impact, as you would expect, but the feeling remains that Jones doesn’t fancy him.
If he did, why not bring him on at half-time? Armand remains remarkably composed about it all, though, and despite being restricted to just two cameo Test appearances – his other came on the tour of Argentina last summer – the 29-year-old, Harareborn enforcer is prepared to bide his time and hope for another call this summer.
Frankly, it would be a disgrace if Armand fails to make it on to England’s tour of South Africa, where he excelled for the Saxons during a two-match winning trip in 2016, but his reply when I asked him about it was typical of a humble man who refuses to ever take anything for granted.
Armand said: “I don’t get frustrated about my lack of game time with England because the mindset I have is that Eddie is doing the best he can by picking people he thinks can play in that England back row – and as long as I’m playing my best for Chiefs, that’s all I can do.
“I was just pleased to be involved last week. It wasn’t a great result for England, but individually it was a fantastic occasion and an experience at Twickenham that I can learn from.
“I always prefer to stay quite balanced about these things and the message for me now is the same as with all the guys; I’ve got to keep working hard at the club to make sure that if I’m selected for South Africa I’m in the best position form, fitness and strength-wise.
“I went to South Africa with the Saxons two years ago and that was a brilliant tour to be part of.
“All the guys who were out there came back saying how much they took from it, so to get another opportunity to go there this summer would be brilliant. You can never rest on your laurels, though, and especially here at Exeter because there are lots of hungry back rowers wanting to play in our first team.
“That competition is what drives you on as a team and the focus now is not taking our foot off the accelerator.”
You hope Armand makes it because he is obviously a great team player.
Never one to blow his own trumpet, he also showed a deep humanitarian side last week when, just hours after playing for England, he was back in snowbound Devon driving hospital staff to and from work.
He explained: “My Jeep Wrangler is pretty good in the snow and it was about volunteering to help people who couldn’t get up the little roads go about their duties.
“It was just about doing a little bit for the local community, which I think is pretty important.”