'Just hugged him': Worcester respond to 'Ashton wants out' rumour
Worcester boss Jonathan Thomas has dismissed speculation that ex-England winger Chris Ashton is unhappy at the club and is looking to leave the Gallagher Premiership outfit who celebrated their first on-field league win last Saturday since last November. The 34-year-old joined the Warriors last January from Harlequins but injury has meant he has only made four appearances so far.
Ashton was unavailable for last weekend’s season-opening victory over London Irish at Sixways and it was speculated on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod that he is looking to leave, speculation quickly shot down by an exasperated Thomas who claimed he had just hugged the veteran on the training ground on Tuesday after he came through his first proper session in a while.
It was during a reflection on the rare Worcester Premiership when Rugby Pod co-host Jim Hamilton asked Andy Goode where Ashton was, a query that promoted an eye-raising response. “Rumour has it, I have heard on the grapevine he [Ashton] ain’t happy, Worcester ain’t happy with him, he is going to be leaving there soon,” claimed Goode. “I genuinely have heard that.”
The allegation was soon put to Thomas at his weekly Worcester media briefing and he dismissed what was said on the show. “Who was it with the rumour? Andy Goode, I’ll have to give him a call after this,” quipped the rookie Warriors head coach. “Goodey likes to say ‘I’ve heard’ or ‘I have got a source’, he likes that one. He can just give me a call, he has got my number, he can call and ask me. He hasn’t done that. I have just hugged him [Ashton] on the training field, so what do you think?”
It was with the Barbarians where ex-Wales back-rower Thomas first got to know Ashton, who is contracted at Worcester through to the end of the 2021/22 season, and while his time at the Warriors has been frustrating, the coach is expecting great things soon from the former Premiership title winner.
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“Ashy trained today [Tuesday], first proper session. I gave him a hug after the session because it has been really tough for him. Since he has come to the club he has had calf issues, knee issues. He is a champion player who is very, very competitive and it has been really frustrating for him that he hasn’t been able to get out on the field. What makes him happy is training hard and playing and scoring tries so he hasn’t been able to do that, but he took part in the session there today and he had a really good contribution.
“He will not be available for selection this weekend (at Harlequins) and Gloucester is probably too soon. It’s almost like a player that has come back from a long-term injury. What Chris has to do now, we have to increase his load, build his capacity and we are hopeful he will be fit and available to play in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s the first time we have seen him going hard, running hard in quite a while, so really pleased that he is up and running.”
Hamilton, an ex-Saracens teammate of Ashton, had joked with Goode on The Rugby Pod that he was happy things weren’t working at Worcester for his former colleague. “Ashy used to come in every single day and call me horrible names, say I used to look like a bag of sick when I was sat there with my achilles was torn, my rib broke, my fingers pointing in a different direction and I couldn’t breathe out my nose because it was broken in three different places – so he bloody deserves it.”
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