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Ashton yearns to make a splash

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Tom Fordyce | 23:53 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

Chris Ashton is the fastest man in the England team. He is also quick to admit his weaknesses.

Has this been the toughest six months of his entire career?

"Definitely. Coming back from the World Cup... sometimes it just goes like that," he said.

"Your life is never going to keep going up and up - there will always be a bit where it plateaus out. It's dealing with that side of it that's harder than anything else. When we got back from New Zealand it just kept snowballing."

Chris Ashton

Chris Ashton scores a try in trademark fashion. Photo: Getty

Snowball it did. Ashton was that tournament's joint leading try-scorer, but as one of the players to crop up most frequently in photographs of that infamous night in Queenstown's Altitude bar, he returned from the southern hemisphere to anything but a hero's reception.

A subsequent autobiography was criticised by some as premature. When he returned to club action with Northampton, he was banned for pulling Leicester wing Alesana Tuilagi into touch by his hair, and then had a bust-up with coach Jim Mallinder after being dropped for the big European tie against Munster.

Having begun his international career with nine tries in nine matches, he went on to bag 15 in his first 17 Tests. But Ashton has now gone five matches without crossing the line.

Other wingers have suffered worse droughts - his former England team-mate Mark Cueto famously went 18 matches without one for the national side - but few have gone from feast to famine quite so dramatically.

So what has happened to the form that made him the most feared finisher in world rugby?

"When you've had success you feel like everything's going to come off," he says almost wistfully, "and almost inevitably it does. When it isn't happening, and you're trying to catch a break, it seems a lot harder to get that next try than the last one."

We are talking in the spring sunshine at England's training base at Pennyhill Park, two days before the final match of the 2012 Six Nations against Ireland. A year ago Ashton scored six tries in his first two matches. This time he is in real danger of going scoreless throughout the entire tournament.

"A lot of it comes down to chemistry, to continuity, just getting used to each other," he says, when I ask him where the disparity has sprung from.

"There's a little bit of us as a team getting to know each other, how we play. The first two games were pretty miserable conditions, lots of hard work, more of a slog.

"The Wales match - it's part of the tournament, but it doesn't help when you're stop-starting when you've got a new team. A week on, then two weeks without a game - you need to keep playing.

"I've been in the same place as always, making the same runs, and I've just been a bit unlucky with some of it, with that last pass hasn't been quite there. But that's going to happen - as long as I'm doing everything else right..."

Last season Ashton was forever popping up on the shoulder of fly-half Toby Flood, taking an inside pass to accelerate free. Has the absence of Flood this year, first through injury and then form, denied him his main ammunition?

"Toby has always been good at that - he does that a lot at Leicester," he tells me. "I also think defences are now covering that move a lot more. When you're new it's one thing, but then the opposition start to watch and start to expect.

"That will always happen. You've just got to change your game and carry on getting better and improving. I would like to think I'm doing that."

He scratches at his arm and looks uncomfortable. "As a team we haven't made too many line-breaks, either."

Six, I remind him, with just three in the first three matches.

"Yeah. That's not many at all. Scotland had seven just in the game against us. That's a factor in it. I'm always waiting sometimes for someone to make that break and some of the games have been pretty hard to get involved in."

Last month Ashton offered to move from his favoured right wing to the left to allow David Strettle his own favourite. Has that switch also inadvertently made his task harder?

"Yeah. I've just seen the game for so long from that side of the pitch that it makes more sense to you, just because you've been standing there for so long.

"You get used to everything being on that side of you, so it felt a bit different. The games have been pretty difficult ones to just throw yourself into the left wing.

"I thought I'd give it a go, try the left. After the Wales game I thought I'd like a go back on the right. I just felt much more comfortable, I got myself in the game more. I'm going back to the right again on Saturday."

Another theory has it that today's 24-year-old Ashton is carrying more timber than the fleet-footed, rosy-cheeked speedster who made his debut in Paris two years ago. Has he bulked up in the gym, or lost a little shape?

"Maybe. I don't know. It's pretty hard to work out, because in my head, I don't feel any different to when I was 17.

"You're up and down quite a lot of the time, because sometimes you're doing weights and sometimes you're not. Maybe, because I had four weeks' off at Christmas, not playing, you're not running as much and you're doing more weights, so maybe a little bit."

He shrugs and grins. "But I've always wanted to be a little bit heavier. Not fatter, mind, but heavier."

Some have called for Ashton to be dropped from Stuart Lancaster's starting XV. Cueto has been at the forefront of his former team-mate's defence.

"I don't think he is particularly out of form," Cueto told the BBC. "He is just not getting the opportunities and he is getting frustrated. He has not done anything wrong, and to pick someone out like that is just ridiculous."

There were signs against France of Ashton beginning to enjoy himself again, even if his most important impact was the crunching hit he made on Dmitri Szarzewski that led indirectly to England's first try.

"That was the first tackle I've made, ever," he says with a smile. "I knew I was on my own, so I knew I had to fly in. Luckily he wasn't looking. Although I'd rather Manu [Tuilagi] had tackled him and I'd been on the end of it, scoring the try.

"I'm pretty annoyed when I don't have an impact on the game. You expect yourself to be involved in a game at some point, and when that doesn't happen... Even when the team wins and you're pleased, you're not happy deep down with how you've played."

He was at his lowest, he says, when he couldn't even get a game for Northampton. "It was pretty hard to take. I just had to sit there and watch, through the biggest drought that I've had. That was pretty hard to deal with.

"Doing the simple things and not bothering about all the other stuff, just making sure you're in the team every week - you gain confidence that way. That's what you get from playing. So when you're not playing it's pretty hard. What can you do?

"I think now it's slowly getting better. It's just unfortunate that it has to end this weekend."

If he were he score against Ireland on Saturday, would Twickenham once again witness his "Ash Splash" celebration, or have those carefree days gone? He grins again. "I dunno mate. It might just have to be a dot it down, thank flip for that. Run back, give me another one. We'll have to see..."

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I don't know if it's the way the questions were asked or what, but Ashton does not appear a very happy bunny. Are the antics from the World cup hanging that heavily on his shoulders? If so the press need to look at the way they reported the incidents and the impact it can have on our international sports folk.

    Perhaps he should not have behaved the way he did, but how much was blown out of proportion, just for the press to have a field day, or some idiot in the pub to make a couple of quid selling the story?

    Although I thoroughly enjoyed the try he scored against Australia, I think it has almost plagued his recent appearances in the white shirt, expectations are way too high, and I think as a nation we expect too much from young sports people. Yes he is professional however he is still very young and should be expected to make errors much like we all do.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ashton has seemingly gone from match winner to liability over the last six months. His attitude during the France match was poor, he was acting like a surly teenager who very nearly cost England the game. The penalty he gave away under our own posts when we had been awarded a free kick, could have cost us the game.

    There are times when you take one for the team and deliberately slow down the ball to give 3 rather than 5 or 7 points, but that was just petulant. It also has a knock on effect to the attitude of the referee towards the rest of the team, which I would argue, might have had some bearing in Sharples receiving yellow and Fofana not (as Alain Rolland said it was an accumulation of transgressions rather than that single incident). Again in the second half, the ref had to call Robshaw across to get him to have a word with Ashton.

    There is no doubting his talent and an on form Ashton would definitely get in my team, I just hope he continues to focus on working hard and rugby rather than letting his frustration get the better of him, because we can't afford to give away as many penalties vs Ireland tomorrow and still hope to win.

  • Comment number 3.

    He is pants this fella,

    Got a footballers metality, moaning at ref and thinks he's a superstar

    Bobbins

  • Comment number 4.

    Ashton has enough in the bank to keep his place for now. Dropping him at this stage won't help him at all. I agree that he has become a bit of a liability lately however even in the France game still produced a magic moment that forced a try even if it was a tackle.

    There is the summer tour then the autumn internationals which I would pick him for. If his attitude hasn't improved by then maybe dropping him becomes an option. We have to be careful though as he has the potential to be a truly world class match winner as he as shown and we don't have many of them.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great Blog again Tom,

    Like most of the Eng rugby stars he seems humble, down to earth and level headed. Obviously from the incredible highs of the start of his england career, to the world cup and now a slight "slump", he seems to have kept his perspective even though on the pitch, his frustration has been evident.

    He has too much pace and skill though, to be kept out for long, I really like him. Only thing that worries me is the bulking up and the possible loss of pace - THAT, would be criminal in my mind. Remember shane williams, you dont have to be massive. To lose out on pace and agility in the effort to be a bit bigger is a mistake in my opinion (although I am not the one being asked to tackle 17 stone monsters!!)

    Come on England, big win to finish on Saturday!!!! And a try or two for Ashy!

  • Comment number 6.

    Tom, you may be rght that he is the fastest in the team but he is not the fastest in the squad that honor goes to Sharples wo is not even the fastest in his team back in Gloucester.

  • Comment number 7.

    Simple enough, really. What has worked for him in the past has been getting on the shoulder of people who made breaks to take the last pass and run it in, or sprinting for the corner to finish it when he was put away. Since we haven't been making breaks nor creating finishing opportunities for him, he's not been scoring.

    He is more of a scavenger than a creative force, and that's not a slight on him. Somebody who can pop up on the end of a move and take it home is worth his weight in gold - as long as the team is putting him in that position. I'm sure he'll come good when things start to click a bit more in attack for the team.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ashton diod things v France that he is not reputed for - big tackles, some great intelligent defence (watched it three times now) and there were glimpses of him doing what he is reputed for better than for a while. Nine of ten refs wouldn't have penalised Ashgton for his tiny shove on Rougerie so that isn't an issue - he was obviously a little frustrated generally and he does need to curb that - he is a class player with a dip in form - we should stick with him because he will come good - he doesn't think he's a superstar - anyway if he does he is now learning that dips in form are par for the course, and if he scores on Saturday I for one won't care if he dots it over the line or flies through the air..

  • Comment number 9.

    if you drop ashston who are you going to replace him with? no one. Sharples is a good club player and that is it.

  • Comment number 10.

    9.At 09:18 16th Mar 2012, SuperLeedsSuperSnodders23 wrote:
    if you drop ashston who are you going to replace him with? no one. Sharples is a good club player and that is it.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Spot on. Not always the greatest situation to be in but in this case very true.

  • Comment number 11.

    May

  • Comment number 12.

    Most feared finisher in world rugby? He is a good winger but has done nothing to warrant that label.

  • Comment number 13.

    I hope Ashton finds his form again because he is an undeniably talented player, but also because it would give the side such a boost. Especially with the criticism related to their attacking ability.

  • Comment number 14.

    Erm regarding Charlie Sharples, he's hardly had a chance to prove himself at international level yet has he really?

  • Comment number 15.

    Chris Ashton has been the victim of the "build 'em up, knock 'em down cycle" in the English press. They don't really know any other model. The "up-cycle" is pretty flattering to a young man's ego. Get photographed drinking beer (which seemingly became illegal overnight) and you're onto the savagely bewildering "down-cycle". I think that it has genuinely got to him and is reflected in his play.

    That being said, defences and players at this level are very sophisticated and advantages don't last very long before the counter-measures are worked out. Ashton is being well marked...indeed quite extensively blocked at times...an offence that refs no longer deem worthy of blowing-up for while they're obsessing about the breakdown. Ashton's impact lasted slightly more than a season before the edge was neutralised. It's up to him and his coaches to work on new tricks to exploit that blistering speed of his.

    It happens to everyone. The Welsh backline (the Jonah Llomu phenomenon) was effective at the RWC but by the 3rd game of the 6N is looking obvious and being handled by the better defences. They didn't get any momentum at all against England and you can be sure that France have noticed that. So it's up to Wales to come with something new to overcome the rushing defence that doesn't give the behemoths time to accelerate.

    It would be overreactive to drop Ashton just yet but he must perform tomorrow and in the Autumn or the questions will be getting louder. I do owe the guy a small bit of credit though. His "autobiography" was more than a little big-headed for a 24 year old but it is the first book that my rugby-mad but slightly dyslexic son has read from cover to cover. He has pushed on from there and is doing well so thank you Mr. Ashton (or possibly your ghostwriter for the simple style and your publisher for the big font!)

    PS: To demonstrate how it works...Stuart Lancaster is currently in the up-cycle. If he stays on, just wait and see what happens in the Autumn Internationals! It's as predictable as night following day!

  • Comment number 16.

    @5 i think you'll find Shane Williams seriously bulked up and didnt really lose his speed, if you look at him 10 years ago he was tiny... If he hadnt of bulked up he wouldnt have made it to the level he has cos he would have been destroyed in the modern game... Personally I always think he's been a bit overated!

    Anyway Ashton bulking up should be ok... I think his problem is he hasnt been happy at Northampton this year, whether thats his fault or the clubs, only they know, hopefully next season at Sarries he re-find his form and become a happy try scorer again.

  • Comment number 17.

    To be fair neither wing is getting the ball in condition and to add to that Tuilagi doesn't know how to pass! Just knows how to go to ground with the ball.

  • Comment number 18.

    I alway thought it was the centres jobs to let the wingers score? The centres run all the fancy lines, put the kicks over, pass and loop and breck the firest line of defence. The winger picks up the last pass and might beat a man to run it in. That is the wingers job Right. Beat the last man/out pace the full back?
    If thats the case then its the team letting him down. If there are too few line breaks, too few over laps and too few opertunites then how can that be the finishers fault. I might be wrong being a second row forward.

    I like Ashton. He is a class player and I like how SL has kept him in the squad. It shows trust in him. I think Ashton will be back on form next year after the whole will he wont he leave Saints situation calms down. I can see him being a little more flexable in how he plays and not just rellying on the off load.

  • Comment number 19.

    yeah lets get the ball outside to two flying wingers.

  • Comment number 20.

    With regard to Sharples, I know it was only one game, but vs France I thought he got shown up in defence a bit. And international wingers need to be able to defend.

  • Comment number 21.

    If you look at the tries that England have scored this tournament, there's nothing that has come from a line break form any of the backs. A charge down try against the Scots and a similar effort against the Italians were followed by a shut-out against Wales. Tuilagi's try stemmed from an awful offload in the tackle (although it was a very good hit that led to it) and the other tries stemmed from barnstorming runs from the back-row.

    The English midfield have let the wingers down as they haven't got the flair to release players into space.

    That said, the Ashton of 12 months ago would have looked to get involved more than he is now and he just doesn't look confident.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ashton shouldn't be starting for England. He has done nothing for 4 games straight but I think its a case of having no one else to bring in to replace him.

  • Comment number 23.

    What about that gadge from Bath with the shaggy blond hair, dunno his name but watched him the other day, looked decent.

  • Comment number 24.

    @23 biggs i think is his name. He is a very arrogant young chap though, would hate to see him pull on the jersey

  • Comment number 25.

    @24 are you just miffed he left leeds?

  • Comment number 26.

    TeniPurist wrote:

    "Great Blog again Tom,

    Like most of the Eng rugby stars he seems humble, down to earth and level headed."

    that's not the impression i've formed of ashton, i have been developing a growing suspicion over this season that he has an attitude problem. it's less easy to judge from a written (albeit well-written) interview than a broadcast one. interested to hear Tom's opinion as to whether he agrees with TeniPurist, but perhaps his position means he wouldn't feel free to give this opinion publicly...

  • Comment number 27.

    @24 Arrogant or not, he is flippin' fast, can defend, knows how to finish in the corner and is decent enough under a high ball. Add to that he has scoring tries for fun this season and you can see why he is being talked about for England (and not just by @23). He reminds me of a young Josh Lewsey, who served his time in the sevens circuit before making decent showing in the fifteen a side game.

    We've a good crop of wingers coming through at the minute when you include the Gloucester boys, Christian Wade etc. I think that Ashton has to be ready at this stage of his career to adapt to the situation. I think what alot of people have said here is true- he has been figured out. What makes good players great is the ability to adapt their game to fit into new systems and new teams to keep defences guessing. If he manages that then he will prove his doubters wrong and go on to become an England stalwart. If he doesn't there are plenty of options for England to choose from and develop.

    If only the same could be said for our midfield...

  • Comment number 28.

    @25 im not following!

  • Comment number 29.

    Erm when we talk about attitude issues and wingers, a certain Australian springs to mind and it never stopped him achieving all sorts ( including a cynical knock on during a WC final).

    He had/has the most appalling attitude of any sports person to grace the earth, but is still lauded as one of the greatest wingers ever!

    And before i'm shot down, I am not comparing the two, just highlighting that having a poor attitude should not affect his performances.

  • Comment number 30.

    tom_rowlands25

    That was sort of the impression I got, but only saw the one game with him playing. Does he look like he could be as good as Lewsey?

  • Comment number 31.

    22.At 10:27 16th Mar 2012, jamesmathew wrote:
    Ashton shouldn't be starting for England. He has done nothing for 4 games straight but I think its a case of having no one else to bring in to replace him.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    4 games with no try therefore drop him? Amazing how fickle we English sometimes are. To say he has done nothing is not really correct. Defensively he has been very solid, he has tried in attack but just not come off.

    29 - smackeyes. - I agree

    Rubgy is a team sport that takes all sorts. Sometimes you need these sort of characters in a team and I know where I'd like mine. On the wing. The boy clearly has something and hopefully behind closed doors he gets the appropriate ear clipping he sometimes deserves.

  • Comment number 32.

    I can see that Samoan dude Manusamoa absolutely killing the Irish centers...Earls and Darcy will need to play the game of their lives if they are to nullify Manusamoa which is unlikely. It should be a great game but I think the home advantage will be just the extra bit England need to win.

  • Comment number 33.

    jamesmathew

    Mate are you bored again?

  • Comment number 34.

    Ashton's slump is clearly being affected by 2 factors, firstly defenses are looking for those surging midfield breaks from the last 18 months and have acted (somewhat cutely) to prevent him from having as much of an impact. Secondly the England midfield have failed to break the line consistently enough or create the space and therefore opportunities that wingers need to score tries.

    For me the second factor can be attributed to a change in style and personnel which hasn't quite settled in international rugby conditions (especially aggressive defenses). This is where England fans (and media!) need to be patient as it will improve over the summer internationals and into the Autumn where I will be expecting much more from the team in terms of creating space and engineering chances. Dropping Ashton or any other winger for not scoring tries when we have only really created 1 chance (for the wide men) in 4 games seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    As for those who have discussed Sharples I have to say that I just don't see him cutting it at international level even though he looks like an excellent player at Gloucester. That being said if he is showing it in training then I'm all for him being given a chance in the summer internationals to see if he can step up to the grade before any decision is made.

  • Comment number 35.

    @smackeyes....yeah man on Fridays I'm always bord...but I don't see anything wrong with what I said...I think home advantage will prove the deciding factor as I think both teams are fairly even right now. Plus Englands centers are much stronger then the Irish ones so that area could prove vital.

  • Comment number 36.

    Just thought "Samoan dude" was a pop...... apologies

  • Comment number 37.

    @27 he is not even close to international class, arrogance gets you nowhere in life

  • Comment number 38.

    His try scoring figures look great but you forget nine of his 15 tries have come in games against Italy, Georgia and Romania. And in the Italy game where he scored four tries, Mauro Bergamasco was playing scrum half!

  • Comment number 39.

    @smackeyes....ah ok..no no I just googled his name as I can never spell it and copy and pasted his first name. I think he is an amazing player and at 20 years old...wow.
    He should make the starting XV lions next year although if Gatland is manager I can see Roberts & Davis taking the centers.

  • Comment number 40.

    If he can take a few tips off Sonny Bill i.e offloads, he will be exceptional I think.

  • Comment number 41.

    @30 It remains to be seen. I remember Lewsey was a unknown quantity until SCW threw him in against Italy and he scored an absolute wonder of a try on his debut. That cemented him and he went from strength to strength. One of Lewsey's strengths was that he looked comfortable anywhere in the back three. I'm not sure how Biggs would go at full back. His one area of weakness would be his kicking out of hand. Still the only way you find out is by sticking him in. It would be great to see him go on the South Africa tour with some of the other youngsters (May, Sharples, Wade). One thing I like about saying this in today's England set up is that there is actually an outside chance that it will happen instead of taking the same old players every time.

  • Comment number 42.

    Ashton is a class act and reads the game; he's still young enough to learn and improve in the Lancaster regime. To be fair, he hasn't seen too much of the ball lately but he'll be there. You can be sure that whatever is written here and in the general media, the Irish boys would love to see him out of the England team for tomorrow

  • Comment number 43.

    That try against France...for a 17stone man to run that fast and have that natural lil jump to avoid the tackle at the end...he is a natural rugby player. Ya the backs coaches need to develop his offloads and passes and he could be come the worlds best in a few years.

  • Comment number 44.

    @38 - Bergamasco wasn't scrum half for that game. The game where he played scrum half was two years earlier.

    http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/matchcentre/7991.php?section=lineups&fixid=140051

  • Comment number 45.

    @37. What did Tom Biggs do that made you form such a negative impression of him? I think alot of self confidence is essential to be a top class sportsman. It is a fine line between self confidence and arrogance and many overstep that line, but it doesn't make them bad players. @29 is right- Look at Campo, Jerry Guscott etc etc.

  • Comment number 46.

    I though this wade fella for wasps was meant to be a bright international prospect?!

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    @41 - Indeed Lewsey was an unknown quantity then. I remember there was a lot of furious debate about his inclusion. Some said that his then coaches at Wasps Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards had talked Lewsey's way into the team through the media. If that was their intention then thankfully SCW listened.

    Yeah I also hope that a few of the young guns get a chance on the SA tour. They have to "blooded" some time. And with the tests will be a great opportunity to do so.

  • Comment number 49.

    It'd be great to see him in the squad alright. He had a great World Cup with the U20s

  • Comment number 50.

    @46 - Christian Wade is a bright international prospect. Unfortunately he caught the Wasps injury bug and has been out since January. He should be returning in the next few weeks.

  • Comment number 51.

    @47. you shouldn't be baseing your opinions on a player's ability purely on looks. Imagine if the England team didn't pick players just because they were covered in tatoos. We would never had seen Matt Banahan in an England team.

    Actually that might be the way to go after all...

  • Comment number 52.

    While its good to give Ashton time to re-mold himself into the new-look squad this seems mightily unfair for Mike Brown who while is a natural 15 has been playing exceptionally for Harlequins and consistently as well. If i was him right now id be thinking im never going to get into the squad now!

    Mike Brown is a talent which has yet to be unleashed on the international stage and with his quick feet and intelligent play, and his incredible defensive mind he must be pleading with Stuart Lancaster to give him some game time instead of around 5-10 minutes he's got so far.

    Ashton's good, but to stubbornly keep an out-of-form player in the team is harking back to the Johnson era. If they don't play well, take em off and put someone else there! That's what makes a good team and a good coach.

    Yet another reason to have Mallet as head coach.

  • Comment number 53.

    Am I the only person here who can see Ashton getting a couple tomorow, after all, it was his smash tackle that started it all last week, the praise he got from that must lead to a surge in confidence.

    We shall see the benefit of that tomorow.

  • Comment number 54.

    Tony D

    Yet another reason, what are the first few then coz I cant think of any

  • Comment number 55.

    @54

    Not implying there are many reasons, but i personally think Mallet with bags of experience and success ought to lead England. While Lancaster has done a great job dont get me wrong, his inexperience is worrying and while i believe he should work with Mallet, my money is on a really fresh face which will command respect because he knows what he's doing.

    Lancaster has dropped Toby Flood a number of times, i can't see why Chris Ashton is a special case.

  • Comment number 56.

    I dont think Ashton is a special case, I think perhaps Lancaster has faith in him to deliver the goods when required. As for Flood, maybe he is not fully fit yet?

    It will not matter one iota who takes the reins, there will always be contentious decisions regarding choice of players and you are more than entitled to your views. However it seems to me a little sour to coax an individual ie Lancaster to coach the team through the six nations, watch him do a decent job and then bin him off.

  • Comment number 57.

    Flood has never been good enough for international level and would have been dropped along time ago if there was anyone challenging for the position. I would be surprised if he never starts for England again bar an injury to Farrell.

  • Comment number 58.

    *wouldn't...not would

  • Comment number 59.

    Whilst it's pretty fair to say that Chris Ashton has not performed as well as his previous games for England, to drop him or worse, make him out to be the underperforming scapegoat in a new team is plain unfair.

    He is a player that thrives on service and being in the right place... a classic poacher.

    It would be a bit like having a pop at Javier Hernandez for not scoring if Manchester Utd were doing nothing but defending and a midfield that is not producing the chances.

    My feeling is this, it's a new team, a new set-up and the first thing to do is to minimize mistakes which give our more recent performances, has definately happened which the players and management deserve huge credit for. (the France Game aside)

    Once the attacking part of it comes together I think Ashton will begin to shine again.

  • Comment number 60.

    The Wayne Rooney of English Rugby

  • Comment number 61.

    Haaaaaa the Wayne Rooney of rugby. Ha nobody in rugby compares to that piece of waste produce.

  • Comment number 62.

    Ashton is currently a shadow of his former self and doesn't deserve to be in the English team - at this time! About time he ate humble pie, but serves the guy right for being such a show off when scoring tries.. in his brief international glory.. 'Ash Splash' - what a crock. Perhaps this is a sign of a new mindset within the team and rightly so - about time England dropped the 'arrogance' perception by the rest of international rugby community. Lancaster is doing well doing just that.

  • Comment number 63.

    57 Jamesmatthew

    That would be the same Toby Flood who was reckoned to be the best fly-half in the last 6N would it? He created a number of brilliant line breaks, especially the one that put Ashton over against Wales. In the RWC he was forced to play second fiddle to Jonny Wilkinson, even when it was clear that the great man was far off his best, a tactical mistake that can be laid squarely at the door of Martin Johnson.

    My impression is that Flood has been injured and has lost form. Thankfully, one of the plusses of Stuart Lancaster is that he has avoided the old approach of waiting for an established player to recover from injury and stuff him straight back into the front-line. Lewis Moody's career ended on sour note precisely because of this approach. Who knows, maybe he is emphasising his new way by making it clear to Flood that there are no "heir apparants" any more and that he must fight to get his place back!

    Charlie Hodgson was always a stop-gap and personally I'm really glad for him that he enjoyed a bit a swansong. I'm sure that he would agree that he is not the right player to take England forward. Owen Farrell looks very promising but I would think hard before proclaiming him the best thing since sliced bread. If England are to move forward with three "first-pick" fly-halves then Toby Flood has to be one of them. He's still young but has played in two RWC, including one final! I approve of the "youth" policy, but to discard such talent and experience out of hand because a newcomer has had a couple of promising outings would be criminally wasteful!

    Flood has been injured. Ashton hasn't been injured but seems to have lost form compared to last year. Whilst never advocating the "stick with the same strike runner despite the fact that he hasn't scored for 18 games" approach, I would hope that we don't return to the equally negative approach of chopping players after a couple of below average outings.

  • Comment number 64.

    62 Raziel

    Trust me, England could be as humble as could be! They could abase themselves, cringe and apologise in front of every victimisation legend thrown at them. They could devote themselves to charity work in the off-season. It would not make a scrap of difference.

    The people who accuse England of arrogance will always accuse England of arrogance (in much the same way that the Welsh will denounce you as boring when you've put 60 points past them) precisely because they need to! If the English aren't arrogant then it doesn't automatically follow that they, by contrast, are lovely relaxed and down to earth guys. It's basic psychology in action!

    Stephen Ferris has just made a fool of himself by saying, and I summarise here, "The English are a bunch of b*****ds except for one's who I've met who were all very nice!" That's quite an achievement really...providing psychological ammunition to your opponent while looking like an idiot!

  • Comment number 65.

    @Anglophone "That would be the same Toby Flood who was reckoned to be the best fly-half in the last 6N would it?"

    I don't know anyone that said or thought that. He has had games where he has looked very good but over his 40+ caps for England he was well below par on average when it came to international level. You could probably count on 1 hand the amount of good games he had.

    Anyways he has been demoted to the 3rd number 10 in the squad for a reason...and he is over his injury otherwise he wouldn't have been released to Northampton. If he was good enough he would have went straight back onto the England team but he has been dropped completely.

    Farrell is the future, Flood is the past.

  • Comment number 66.

    I don't think the perception of the English being arrogant has anything to do with the Rugby team...I think its just the English people in general. We have all been on holidays in a pub watching a match and the loudest most obnoxious people in there always seem to be English. The guys at the back of the plane singing and drunk out of their heads are always English. Its just life experience and the way the English conduct themselves while in other countries that gives people the "perception" that they are an arrogant nation. Plus the football team! They dont help either.

  • Comment number 67.

    #64 Anglophone; I totally understand your point (and let's be clear when talking of Englsh arrogance I am not referring to the country or Joe public, just the perception of the team by other countries, both hemispheres - they can't all be wrong). Historically the English team have been far from modest in their wins and full of excuses in their losses. The 'Ash Splash' was a small example of such an attribute and I am grateful to finally see an English team that not only has purpose, ability and intent but is measuring that with a degree of modesty (of themselves) with respect for the nations they play; if that Lancaster mentality is maintained then England will be a side to play for their reverance and not to 'shut the arrogant mouths'. I'm sure Ashton will step up to the 'new bar' that has been set by his teammates in time though, we havent seen the last or best of him yet.

  • Comment number 68.

    Statement........................... There are arrogant people in all walks of life. All nations, colours, genders. This is not a behaviour that is perculiar to English people/ English sports teams and to say so is utter cack.

    On these pages England and arrogant run hand in hand yes?????

    No, I am English, not arrogant, so is my wife, son and many friends.

    I have also met some very arrogant people from other nations whilst on holiday.

    Please stop with the England/ English = arrogant

    Rant over

  • Comment number 69.

    James, Maybe that is more of a reflection of where you go on Holiday. If you live in the gutter turds will come your way. Me and my English friends holiday to locations of considerably more refinement than you and rarely see any loutish behaviour from any nationality.

  • Comment number 70.

    The improvement in this England team over the course of 3 matches has been absolutely incredible.

    For me, Ashton is a finisher, and a defender. His defence has been good- a number of times against France they had men over or a promising opportunity to move the ball wide which led to nothing because of English discipline in defence.

    His finishing really requires a cohesion and familiarity within the team to secure the breakdown, move the ball quickly, make line breaks and offload at speed. That will come in time, and isn't something that can be achieved quickly- nor should it be.

    I'm very impressed with the current coaching setup who are building from the base- getting the simple things in place, and will eventually move the team towards the exciting, free flowing rugby that we all want.

    The French played some pretty free flowing rugby against England, including some brilliant breaks from the back row, and look where they ended up- losing because of basic errors.

    Full marks to the England coaches, and to Ashton for being patient and putting the team first. Go on lads!

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    The arrogant England tag is ages old. No matter how the England team conduct themselves, they'll still be referred to as arrogant. If the team were very modest when scoring tries or winning matches (ie just smiling when winning) it would be called an "arrogant smile". If they just nod when scoring a try its an "arrogant nod".

    I know a few Welsh fans from uni days who hate Rory Underwood. Underwood is probably one of the nicest rugby players in history. And modest too. But they hate him because they claim he and his brother were waving at opposition fans after scoring a try a during the 1990s. I have explained to them a hundred times and even shown them footage which clearly shows they were waving at their mum. Who had never seen them both play for England together until that day. The camera even focuses in on their mother jumping up and down in crowd. But they still continue to believe the lie.

    The stark truth is, that they hate Rory Underwood because he was a good England player who scored tries. ie They'd hate George North if he wore an England shirt and performed well. The England team has no more arrogant players than any other side in World rugby. But some fans of other countries just can't get past the fact that they hate any England player for no other reason than he wears a shirt with a rose on it.

  • Comment number 74.

    36.
    At 11:31 16th Mar 2012, smackeyes wrote:

    Just thought "Samoan dude" was a pop

    Here's a 'pop':
    it's a pity that man of the match for the entire first half in the England v Wales game has his love and devotion to Manu Samoa tattooed all down his mighty left arm

  • Comment number 75.

    Unfortunately, the English are arrogant. This is why everyone wants to beat them. Invented the game, think they should therefore automatically be good at it and aren't. Simple.

  • Comment number 76.

    couka_cone

    oh dear, shame crayons dont work on computer screens kid

  • Comment number 77.

    The Stephen Ferris comments were very fiery. But Ferris gives a massive clue to his opinion on England. He mentions that he used to hate getting trounced by English teams at youth level over and over again. So really his hatred isn't of English arrogance. Its because he couldn't take losing as a teenager.

    If you see a group of rival teenagers celebrating beating your team over and over again, you'd definitely think they were arrogant. Because everytime they play you, they beat you. Even though he's been involved in some great victories over our senior team, the youth level stuff still annoys him. Maybe Ferris should see a psychologist and get over it.

  • Comment number 78.

    Under Lancaster its been all defence. The odd chargedown try and a few individual trys last week. If I was Ashton I would be fed up. This team under Lancaster is very up the middle. Spreading the ball wide in attack does not happen. We need a coach appointed with a little more flair. I do not see Lancater getting the best out of the English players available. I do not like Lancaster and his try not to lose attitude.

  • Comment number 79.

    @74.

    I'm bored. You're boring. 'Manu Somoa' this, 'Manu Samoa' that... give it a rest.

  • Comment number 80.

    #65 @jamesmathew errr, wasn't flood released back to his club...LEICESTER?

  • Comment number 81.

    73: hate any England player for no other reason than he wears a shirt with a rose on it:

    And what about the way the english supporters that chant out Swing low etc... etc.. as a kind of insult to the opposition

  • Comment number 82.

    smackeyes

    I'm a proud englishman myself dear boy, but it's the same story with our professional sports in this country. We expect to win the football and rugby every time the world cup comes around, yet we rarely have a team good enough to actually win it. It smacks of arrogance. Only a fool would convince himself of anything different.

  • Comment number 83.

    Rulechangecrazy

    I have this vision of you, bright red with anger, punshing the computer keys with steam coming out of your ears. Almost the same post as the other day mate, chill out your blood pressure must be sky high

  • Comment number 84.

    couka_cone

    You cannot generalise like that unfortunately. I for one do not expect to win every game we take part in. On the contrary, I tend to expect to lose at most sports. Am I therfore being English arrogant?

  • Comment number 85.

    66 Jamematthew

    Hmmmm...kind proves my point. "I met an English guy once who was obnoxious, therefore it follows that all Engish people are obnoxious and, by extension, as I'm not English therefore I can't be obnoxious and I'm probably rather a cool guy"

    By the way...if you're going to casually trash the reputation of a player whose form you've studied with such apparent interest it helps if you get his club right. Toby Flood plays for Leicester.

    67 Raizal

    If you disapprove of Chris Ashton's exuberant try-scoring routine and use it as proof-positive of the arrogance of all English rugby players...where do you stand on Shane Williams' "splashdown" in the seventh minute of injury time against Scotland who had been on on the receiving end of one of the most incompetent refereeing displays in 6N history? Or possibly his "arrogant" forward roll when scoring his consolation try against South Africa??? By universal acclaim he is apparently the best and nicest player who ever lived. How does this work? I'm confused!

  • Comment number 86.

    @75 - Nobody in England really thinks that we should be automatically good at it because we invented it. We think we should be good at it because of the infrastructure and investment in the sport. Just like Australia (who didn't invent it nor is it their biggest sport) think they should be good at it.

    The arrogant thing is just an outdated opinion in a desperate (yes, desperate) attempt to justify hatred of the England team. And everytime that myth is exploded, the usual non-rugby reasons are given. From Culloden to the Cromwell. The irony is when the tri-nation players of european decent complain about English colonism as a way of justifying their hatred. They still don't seem to understand that they are Colonists.

  • Comment number 87.

    Steve_o

    Oh my god, what a rocket. So none of the other national sides have their own "songs" now? Cockles and mussells, flower of Scotland etc etc ring any bells.

    Oh sorry they dont get sung during the match at all do they? doh

  • Comment number 88.

    @81 - Not sure how a hymn by a former slave about Elijah being taken to heaven on a chariot is an insult to opposition fans. Although France being a very secular country may offend to ti.

  • Comment number 89.

    78 Rulechangecrazy

    Then clearly Mallet's the man. He has turned Italy into one of the most feared running teams on Earth. Tries coming out of their ears. If only we could play like them and not resort to playing it up the middle through the forwards and grinding opponents down in the setpiece.

  • Comment number 90.

    Now whose getting angry SmackEyes, chill your blood pressure is way to high.

    Besides he is a muppet.

  • Comment number 91.

    it's a media thing - the english MEDIA are arrogant about our teams, in any sport - all we ever need to do is turn up. I live in wales, but was born and raised in twickenham - when i told my welsh colleagues i was fairly confident that wales would win, but it would be a close thing, they were pleasantly surprised. yes i was gutted to be proved right, but it happens. I bet the all blacks get the same accusations in the SH - they're the best, they don't even need to try, they deserved to win RWC11 - they deserved to win cos they scored more points than their opponents in every game they played - it might not have been BETTER rugby, but who cares, sexy rugby don't win games or world cups

  • Comment number 92.

    smackeyes

    Oh my dear boy, you are not; but is it you that represents your country? No sir, it is the players who represent every man, woman and child of this nation every time they appear in both the public eye, or on the field of play. It is these people who project an aura of arrogance the undermines all of us, and takes away the role models that young boys like yourself are in desperate need of.

  • Comment number 93.

    Lancaster is not qualified nothing he has done so far says he has the ability. He is just another RFU puppet. England need an international coach thats done it before. Lancaster has played not to lose and nearly lost all 4. Lets get a real head coach instead of these failed attempts to make one.

  • Comment number 94.

    Another thing - the sport pages in the press yesterday were comprehensively touting how well England have performed and how great the potential is etc etc over about two pages each, although the 'potential' tag is true, it is Wales that is going for the grand slam and this merited a lowly single column - annoyed by the English - what do you think...

    PS: you weren't denied a win by a dubious TMO decision either, the best you would have got would have been a draw, and only then if, if Toby Flood converted a very difficult conversion which would have been his first attempt at goal

  • Comment number 95.

    93. Rulechangecrazy

    Agreed.

  • Comment number 96.

    Used to like Ashton back when I thought he was a modest, hard-working fella.

    But the above is a summation of the bloke now his reputation has gone to his head - he is basically saying "I'm doing everything right but it is just the rest of the team's fault".

    Accept the fact that your star has faded and until he gets his head down again and gets his feet on the ground again that fact will remain.

    Has gone a similar way to Youngs, should be dropped to his club and given a kick up the proverbial.

  • Comment number 97.

    @94 - By any chance were you reading a newspaper in England? Or somewhere else? Because newspapers normally cater for the desires of their readers. Just a few days after England won the World cup in 2003 I was in Cardiff. The welsh editions of the big national papers only had a small bit about it. But even though two weeks had passed since England beat Wales in the quarters, there were still articles devoted to what Wales need to do to become a force again. Was Graham Henry's reign a waste of time etc.

    If you live in England, then expect the papers and the media to talk about England more than anyone else. There are plenty of media websites (including the BBCs Scrum V) that have large coverage of the Welsh, Irish and Scots rugby. Plus most newsagents actually sell Scottish, Irish and Welsh newspapers.

  • Comment number 98.

    If it's the team which represents England's arrogance then I'm a bit bemused by the tag as this team has been anything but. Respect for the opposition is there, kind words etc. The only real showing of arrogance has been from past Welsh players now employed by the BBC but I'm hardly going to go around calling Wales arrogant because of this!

    In regards to how England have played the first two games in awful conditions were won doing what was needed. The Welsh game could have gone either way and both teams could have had tries easily. Don't understand criticism of the way they played against France though. 3 tries to 1 and more points in the end and after an entertaining game. What more do some people want?!

  • Comment number 99.

    where's smackeyes gone, i was enjoying winding him up just before I leave to start my liquid preparations for this weekends nerve tingling finale' to the 6 Nations.

    France are never easy, no matter what anyone says, and you English beware, on current form you should beat the Irish, however, it is St Patricks day and you know how emotional they can get, even though Ferris has probably sorted the English team talk out...

  • Comment number 100.

    Steve-o, you wound up an amatuer, a little bit, maybe its time to go pro, and perhaps start by stating which of the small nations you wave an oversized flag for?

    I can't be bothered to look for myself.

 

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