In the amateur days of rugby, it was not unusual for top players to represent one club throughout their long and storied careers. In the professional era, however, the opposite is fast becoming the status quo.
With a modern rugby career lasting anywhere from 5 to 15 years, players of all calibres regularly chop and change who they represent – just like in any other profession.
It’s become almost unheard of to see top international stars remain tied down to one club, especially when the riches on offer in France and Japan typically trump what’s available in the United Kingdom, or the Southern Hemisphere.
Some players have taken the new approach to the extreme, however, flitting from one club to the next, wherever the wind takes them. One such player is new Worcester Warriors recruit and former England international, Chris Ashton.
Less than a year ago, Ashton put pen to paper for Harlequins, but his time with the London-based club didn’t exactly bear fruit for either party. The dual international made just a handful of appearances for Harlequins over the past two seasons, scoring two tries in the process.
Given Ashton’s prolific ability to the ball over the line for the England national side, it’s a disappointing return for a man who was once one of the most dangerous finishers in world rugby.
His recruitment to Worcester means that the 33-year-old has now been contracted to five Premiership clubs – three since he returned to England from Toulon in 2018.
Ashton joins just an exclusive group of players to accomplish such a feat, and it has fans on Twitter asking what the future may hold for the Northampton and Saracens centurion.
‘Is Ashton just going to move to a different club each year then?’ asked one.
‘Has he completed the Premiershet set yet?’ wondered another.
The wider consensus was that Ashton’s time with Harlequins hadn’t gone to plan, but that Worcester may benefit from having a proven finisher on the wing – as well as an experienced player with plenty of wisdom to offer the club’s up and coming stars.
Great move for all involved. Ashton can help mentor younger players, a wealth of experience and a proven try scorer, who will no doubt add a bit of a clinical edge Warriors are missing. Big fan of this move.
— Marcello Cossali-Francis (@Mcossalifrancis) January 25, 2021
At 33 he’s coming to end of his career but still has a lot to offer to the playing squad especially the young players
— Central Machinery (@john77319238) January 25, 2021
Great signing. Will add a winning mentality to the team
— AJ Bailey ™ (@ajbails) January 25, 2021
Welcome Chris. No one better to help us finish off our great moves – & mentor our young boys in some of the best tracking and running lines I’ve ever seen.
Not a fan of the splash but if he scores tries for us I’ll live with that happilyADVERTISEMENT
— Ian Smith (@biffosmith14) January 25, 2021
Just a handful of players have represented as many English clubs as Ashton has throughout their careers, with one of the most notable being RugbyPass columnist Andy Goode. Goode played for Leicester, Saracens, Worcester, Wasps and Newcastle. He also signed a contract with London Irish in 2015 but had to pull out due to injury issues.
Ireland centurion Peter Stringer also played for five English teams, Saracens, Newcastle, Bath, Sale and Worcester. Of his 350-odd club matches, however, over two-thirds were played for Munster.
Journeyman Paul Doran-Jones, who managed six appearances for England, played for Wasps, Gloucester, Northampton and Harlequins, as well as Championship sides Ealing and London Welsh.
Elsewhere around Europe, former Wales star Gavin Henson has clocked up games for PRO14 outfits Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Dragons, as well as England clubs London Welsh, Bath and Bristol.
While it wouldn’t be an outlandish claim to suggest that Ashton might take the outright record in the future – especially given his recent propensity for switching clubs, the man himself will no doubt be hoping that his stay at Worcester lasts at least the 18 months for which he’s contracted.
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