Chris Ashton’s list of international caps shows four years and five months between the last two appearances in the red rose for England but his fortieth last week against South Africa was vindication for his move back to home shores this season following a spell at Toulon. He spoke to RugbyPass about when he heard he would be playing and the prospect of facing the All Blacks this week.
Ashton said, “It was the back end of the week. Manu just caught his leg right at the end of training, unfortunately for Manu but I was very grateful for the opportunity to come my way. I was really happy to get on the field no matter how long it was, I was just happy to be out there.”
With so much time between appearances, the Sale Sharks winger is well placed to examine the differences of atmosphere and talent within the England set up under Eddie Jones compared to previous head coaches.
Ashton commented, “It’s a very different feel. Eddie has a great relationship with all the players. He keeps a very cool head and everyone feels comfortable and enjoys the environment.
“Obviously being quite new into this environment, it’s different and a very enjoyable one. It’s a very competitive one too, everyone’s always pushing in the right direction. At the minute there’s 36 players in the squad but everyone’s fighting to be in the 23 every week, probably more so than I’ve ever experienced it and I think it’s a very healthy environment right now.”
On Ashton’s roster of international appearances, it was just twelve games ago that he was part of Stuart Lancaster’s side that beat New Zealand in 2012, a side that memorably featured Manu Tuilagi along with Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell as the only names from last weekend who also played in that game.
Ashton recalled, “It was a good day, it always is. New Zealand don’t get beat very often so to be involved in it was a very nice experience for me and the players involved but I don’t think it carries too much weight this weekend.
“Our team’s very different and their team’s very different and it’ll be a very different game from the one we had last weekend. But in the same regard we’ll treat it exactly the same as we did South Africa and it’ll be a game where we’re trying to get the plan right and the detail right and win the game.”
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