Writing in his column on The XV, the new high-quality rugby content website, about what makes him tick, he also mentioned the influence fellow wingers such as Vincent Clerc and Julien Savea have had on him. A convert from rugby league, Ashton has gone on to score a plethora of union club tries for Northampton, Saracens, Toulon, Sale and now Harlequins, as well as skirting the heights with England.
He wrote: “I remember talking to Chris Wyles and David Strettle on a night out about scoring tries. My memory is hazy, but I think I’ve scored around 260 tries in my professional career. I’ve been asked many times what the secret is, and it sounds obvious, but you have to really want to score them. It’s got to be within you. I guess I was born with it because from a very young age, I had an overwhelming desperation to score tries.
“Rugby League helped me enormously. I grew up watching the likes of Shaun Edwards, Ellery Hanley and Martin Offiah. Martin never stayed on the wing, which was unheard of at the time. Shaun scored so many tries going up the middle. When I started to play, I was always told to be in and around the ball carrier, because once there’s a line break, you’re away. You have to have a feel for the game, know how to finish and be in the right place at the right time.”
Moving on to players he has admired, he said: “Someone I always had a lot of time for was Vincent Clerc. We were on different sides but we sized each other up across the pitch like boxers. We were very similar players in that he would pop up everywhere – he didn’t just stick to his wing.
? "It's all @mikebrown_15 I reckon."
— Harlequins ? (@Harlequins) September 2, 2020
“There was a mutual respect, so I’m glad I met him at Toulon. He’s such a nice fella and would always want to talk about the game. If I’m honest, I’m actually pretty jealous he scored 100 tries in the Top 14. If you asked me the toughest wing I ever faced, I’d have no hesitation in saying Julian Savea. I felt like he scored a hat-trick against me every time I played him. He was unbelievable.
“You’d hit him as hard as possible but his hip-strength was freakish, you just couldn’t understand how he could still be driving his legs. Clearly, he was in a side that gave him a lot of space but once he had it, you weren’t stopping him. I felt like I was goalkeeping against him. I didn’t feel comfortable at all.”
- The full article appears on The XV.Rugby. Register now for a free trial and get access to long-form and thoughtful editorial content from award-winning journalists and content creators
— The XV (@TheXV) September 17, 2020
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now