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The Worcester verdict on Chris Ashton's first five weeks at his latest club

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Worcester have expressed satisfaction with how ex-England international Chris Ashton had fitted in at his latest Gallagher Premiership club, the soon-to-be 34-year-old finally making his debut last Saturday having joined the Jonathan Thomas-coached side on January 25. 

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The veteran, who is four tries shy of equalling Tom Varndell’s all-time Premiership try-scoring record, had hinted at his first Worcester media conference after he had signed that he was hoping to quickly play for the Warriors following his arrival from Harlequins.      

However, Ashton had to wait five weeks to make his Worcester debut, last Saturday’s outing at Gloucester being his first match of any kind since a December 20 Champions Cup defeat for Harlequins at the hands of Racing 92. 

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Aside from expressing his enduring desire to play rugby, Ashton had added that his 18-month deal with Worcester would see him become a mentor to the younger players in the squad being assembled at Sixways by newly promoted head coach Thomas, whose latest signing on Tuesday was Scott Baldwin, Ashton’s old Harlequins colleague 

Despite suffering eight consecutive Premiership defeats since an opening weekend win over London Irish in November, Thomas has described the input of Ashton these past five weeks as encouraging and he is expecting good things from the veteran in the months ahead. 

“He [Ashton] has settled in really well,” said Thomas about a player whose switch to Harlequins last year didn’t work out following his abrupt departure from Sale. “He is a really good guy. He is not afraid to challenge and that is one of the reasons I felt he could add value. Where we are in terms of our evolution of the team, we have got really good men and good people in the club but the great teams challenge each other because what rugby is about is problem-solving. 

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“So when you are in a game and you are points down or you’re in adversity it’s about communicating, connecting and also challenging. It’s not always about fluffy conversations, so if you need to solve a problem you need to have a tough conversation.

“Where we need to get better as a team is probably our communication at times isn’t good enough, that is something we need to improve. But Chris is someone who is really, really vocal. He has got real quality communication skills in those moments in terms of, I did a one-on-one with Jamie Shillcock on Monday.

“Because your 10 is someone who needs to pull the strings, what your 10 needs are voices outside of him giving him help on where space is and he said to me how good Chris was in terms of the voice and talking to him about kicks, space in the backfield and all those things. So Chris has added real value to the game in terms of his communication and his leadership. 

“Obviously the big thing for Chris is just getting through the 80 minutes. He knows there are a few work-ons but that is going to come. He hasn’t played for ages so he is going to get better but it was important that he got the monkey off his back in terms of playing in that first game. He did a lot of good things, a few things he can improve, things any player (does), but he has brought real value to the club and he is going to get better.”

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The Worcester verdict on Chris Ashton's first five weeks at his latest club

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