While qualification for Rugby World Cup 2019 proved a step too far, scrum-half Sean Armstrong (pictured scoring a try) believes German rugby can move forward with confidence after an impressive showing at the repechage tournament in Marseille this month.
Despite entering the four-team, round-robin event as the lowest seeds, Germany pulled off wins against Hong Kong and Kenya and gave eventual winners Canada a thorough examination in between.
“We’ve never been in this situation before, where we’ve been in camp for three weeks, and I think we’ve really grown as a team and shown the rest of the world what German rugby is made of,” said Armstrong.
“Second place wasn’t the goal that we set out to achieve at the start, but I think we can be really proud.
“It’s been a great advertisement for German rugby and what we can achieve if we have that support. The potential is huge.”
Former England defence coach Mike Ford was brought on board as the Black Eagles' head coach ahead of the repechage and Armstrong says his influence, in the short amount of time he has had to work with the players, has been significant.
“We’ve worked with Mike Ford for 12 weeks, and only 12 weeks, and the team he has put together and the professionalism they have brought in has been fantastic,” he said.
“He has definitely given us a bit more belief. He has broken down some things and made them very easy to follow through his game principles.
“The level of professionalism has gone up a notch since he has been involved. The video sessions are very short and very direct, and the training sessions are very focused. It’s an environment that you really want to be a part of.
“As everyone is aware, we’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride in the last year and in the qualification process we snuck in (to the repechage) through the back door, but it has been a great journey.
“German rugby is on the way up and there is a good foundation to work from. I think with more investment and a few more structures in place, we can really achieve some great things over the coming decade.”
At 32 years of age and with 40 caps to his name, Australian-born Armstrong realises his chances of playing on the game’s greatest stage are probably over following Germany’s failure to secure the 20th and final ticket to Japan 2019.
“Personally, I’m getting a bit long in the tooth, so we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds. But for the team, there is definitely a lot of potential there. There are quite a few young guys who just need to be guided over the next few years so that their potential can be unlocked come 2022, for qualification for the World Cup in 2023.
“It’s been a fantastic experience and hopefully something we can build on in the Rugby Europe Championship in February/March.”