To mark the club’s final season at Madejski Stadium, we have spoken to London Irish players from over the years to discuss their current roles and professions and their best memories of running out in a London Irish jersey in Reading.
Next up in our series is Delon Armitage, a London Irish full back who made well over 100 appearances for the club.
Following a successful spell with Toulon, and then three years with Lyon, the former England international has returned to South West London to begin the next phase of his life.
“I’ve moved back from France and I’m doing a bit of coaching and guest speaking at schools which is what I’ve always wanted to do. I feel with the career I’ve had, I’d be ashamed if I didn’t give anything back, so I’m enjoying my time at the minute, back with the family, back in Sunbury and looking ahead to the next part of my life which is very exciting at the minute.”
With 26 England caps, a place in the England 2011 Rugby World Cup squad and European and Top 14 winners’ medals, Armitage enjoyed a very successful career, and it all started in a somewhat different way back in 2002.
“It was a big eye opener for me, coming over from France, being signed up in the Academy whilst I played for Richmond. I was quite lucky at the time, I was playing for Richmond College and Declan Danaher and Rob Hoadley, who were just into the first team at London Irish, spotted me.
“They told one of the Academy coaches and that was how I got my chance to come over to London Irish. Joining the Academy was a realisation, moving from home into an environment where there was a lot of hard work, training, analysis. It was a fun, exciting and a lot of hard work at the same time.”
As with a lot of our ‘Madejski Memories’ features, Delon also recalls Munster back in 2010 as one of his standout moments whilst playing in Reading.
“The one I will always remember was playing Munster, that was quite a tough game at home, the big games were always great occasions. Also when playing Ulster, we beat them and got a bonus-point try in that game as well. These were two of the biggest games for me when playing at the Madejski.
“Every player will recall the St Patrick’s Party games too, whether you were injured the week before, or during the week, you would do all you could to be fit for that game. Those really stuck out for me.”
A highly popular member of the squad, Delon forged many friendships whilst an Exile and still is in touch with many of those players to this day.
“I’m still close to a lot of the guys I played with. I’ve just got back from the Dubai 7s where I caught up with Sailosi Tagicakibau and Elvis Seveali’i. We had the opportunity to play again and reminisce about our times at London Irish, stuff we used to get up to which was a lot of fun.”
Delon formed a potent back three combination along with Sailosi Tagicakibau and Topsy Ojo. He also recalls Paul Sackey as one of the great players he wore the jersey alongside.
“All three of those guys were brilliant. That back three combination with Topsy and Losi was special. I was lucky enough to play with Riki Flutey and Seilala Mapusua when they came over with Elvis too. For me, one of the best back lines we had was during the 2007-2009 seasons. Brilliant days and I really enjoyed getting to know those guys as well.”
Delon was a guest at the London Irish Foundation lunch in 2019 and is keen to give back to the club which has given him so much. I’m sure all will agree that he gave the club plenty too.