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'Brutal' Chris Ashton reason for ending England career under Jones

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Imagesges)

A former England international has revealed that Chris Ashton didn’t want to play for the national team under Eddie Jones after taking a dislike to the Australian’s methods during the 2018 November internationals. The current all-time Gallagher Premiership record try-scorer had quit playing in France for Toulon due to a desire to restart a Test career that had ended with a June 2014 cap away to New Zealand.

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That 39th appearance with England appeared to be the last for Ashton, who went on to leave Saracens for Toulon three years later in 2017. However, such was his potency during his single season in the Top 14 – he finished with 24 tries in the 23 league outings – that he was tempted to return to the Premiership with the incentive of getting another shot with the national team.

Having joined Sale, Ashton was selected for the November series four years ago and after stepping off the England bench versus the Springboks, he was a try-scoring starter versus the All Blacks a week later but that display marked the high point of his fleeting return.

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Ashton won just three more caps, starting against Japan and France either side of coming off the February 2019 Six Nations bench away to Ireland, and that was that for the winger who went on to play for Harlequins and Worcester in the top flight before hooking up with Leicester earlier this year to aid their successful run to title glory.

The story about Ashton and the sombre ending to his England career emerged on this week’s Rugby Pod show when co-host Andy Goode was asked if he thought head coach Jones has lost the dressing room after last weekend’s loss to South Africa left them with just five wins in a dozen games during 2022.

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“What he [Jones] does is rule on fear,” Goode began. “There are a lot of players in the squad that are fearful of making mistakes and it comes out in how they play. Has he lost the dressing room? Players aren’t going to come out and say that openly. He has got (Owen) Farrell as his sort of right-hand man. Farrell obviously is a very, very strong character in terms of how he dictates things in that squad, which is a very positive thing at times. But it’s like every coach, no one is going to come out and say anything bad about the coach until the coach is gone.

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“Chris Ashton, I spoke to him recently about it. He said he came back and was desperate to play for England. He left Toulon to come back to Sale because he wanted to play for England again and that first autumn internationals he got picked, played against the All Blacks and then he was in camp with Eddie Jones and he said he absolutely hated it.

“He said it was brutal, it was like ridiculous on him, the body, his family and everything and he said he wasn’t enjoying it so he didn’t want to play for England again. If that doesn’t speak volumes. Everyone should be going down to England camp as hungry as you can be to want to pull on an England jersey and perform and try and take England to as high a place as you can.

“Next year there is a Six Nations and a World Cup. I don’t reckon they have got that (hunger). Of course, they want to win but have they got that desire to go all the way for Eddie Jones? I don’t know, it doesn’t look like it in the performances at the minute.”

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