Don Armand is poised to enter Saturday’s final round of the NatWest Six Nations as No 8 cover for Exeter colleague Sam Simmonds as England come to terms with a back-row injury crisis.
Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes have been ruled out of the match with Ireland at Twickenham by knee injuries sustained in the 22-16 defeat by France, resulting in Armand’s recall to the squad with Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry and Zach Mercer already missing.
Head coach Eddie Jones previously held reservations over Armand’s carrying and work-rate and, having given him his debut as a replacement against Argentina last June, has overlooked him ever since despite repeated calls for his inclusion.
As one of Exeter’s most consistent performers, Armand’s exclusion has been questioned, but circumstances have conspired to offer him a route back at No 8, the position Jones has identified for him.
“We took Don to Argentina. He’s a good solid player, who keeps on playing well for Exeter,” Jones said. “We’ve got a few injuries in that No 8 spot so we’re relying on Simmonds and need another back-up in that area.”
It is a clear indication that Simmonds will take over from Hughes in the back row despite making little impact when he came on against France, with James Haskell most likely covering for Lawes.
Armand has played most of his rugby this season at either six or seven, but the 29-year-old insists he is also at home at eight.
“I’m comfortable with that. I still play a similar role to the one I normally play. Whatever role it is I’m needed for, I am happy to try and fulfil,” Armand said.
“I have played mostly six and seven. I’ve had a few games at eight, obviously when Sam comes up to England and there’s an injury or something like that.
“I’ve had a fair bit of experience in all three positions. I think I’ve had two games at eight so far this season. My role is wherever it needs to be.”