Delon Armitage gave England an injury scare after he limped off in London Irish's emphatic 40-10 victory over Gloucester yesterday. Armitage, England's most dynamic performer last season, left the pitch in the 61st minute clutching his left wrist. With Toby Flood, Riki Flutey and Mike Tindall already in the treatment room, England manager Martin Johnson can ill afford further injuries to his back line ahead of the autumn internationals.
The fullback's departure took the shine off an otherwise excellent afternoon for Irish, who recorded their first win of the new league campaign. Ryan Lamb took revenge on former club Gloucester by masterminding the outcome and claiming the man-of-the-match award. Newcastle had to settle for a second successive draw at the start of the new season as two late Lee Thomas penalties earned Sale a 16-16 stalemate at a blustery Kingston Park. Thomas held his nerve late on after the Sharks pack had finally exerted some authority over their hosts during a frenetic and scrappy encounter. He kicked three penalties and converted Mark Cueto's fantastic try, which he helped to create with a beautifully placed chip.
Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth kicked 11 points for the hosts, although he also missed two kickable penalties, while centre Rob Vickerman scored his first try for the Falcons after Sharks flanker Neil Briggs knocked the ball into his hands as he attempted to ground the ball behind his own try line. The former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards admits his career in the sport has effectively been ended by his three-year ban for masterminding "Bloodgate".
The most successful coach in English club rugby during the professional era believes he has been punished too harshly for faking a blood injury during last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster. "There is still a part of me that is angry about things that have gone on," he said. "I need to let the dust settle. People ask me, 'Will you come back to rugby?' "To come back from a year out, it would be hard but you'd have a good chance. Two years, you are dead and buried. If I find something else that works for me, I won't come back because this is not the game I signed up to 10 or 15 years ago."