Chris Ashton: Saracens 'disappointed' by winger's decision to join Toulon

Chris Ashton
Ashton has won 39 England caps but has not played for his country since the summer of 2014

Saracens' director of rugby says he is "disappointed" by winger Chris Ashton's decision to leave the club for Toulon.

Mark McCall feels the 29-year-old could have played his way back into the England squad if he had stayed.

Ashton will move next season after signing a three-year deal with the French triple-European champions.

"In our opinion the best place for him to be as a rugby player is here but obviously he doesn't believe that," McCall told BBC Sport.

Ashton has won 39 England caps, scoring 19 tries, but has not played for his country since the summer of 2014.

He has dropped down the pecking order following two lengthy suspensions, and chose not to tour with the England Saxons in June.

McCall feels the situation with England was a "big factor" behind Ashton's decision to seek a fresh start.

"Chris made the decision for him and his family that he was going to call time on his time at Saracens and seek a new challenge.

"It's disappointing for us but we will move on quickly from that," McCall said.

"Chris has done a great job for this club over four-and-a-half seasons and hopefully he can be part of something good again this year. We fully expect him to make a big contribution this season as well."

Despite being out of the England fold, McCall feels Ashton could still have been selected by Eddie Jones in the future if he had stayed at Saracens.

"I think he is good enough to, yes, and I think Eddie Jones has shown he is open-minded enough to play players who are playing well, and isn't too fussed what they have done in the past," McCall added.

McCall also feels the timing of Ashton's suspensions has proven costly to his international career.

The player was banned for 10 weeks shortly before the Six Nations for making contact with the eye area of an opponent, and is currently serving a 13-week ban for biting.

"I think there was definitely a feeling that the first ban was over the top, and it's been very unfortunate timing for Chris because he was on the verge of getting back into the England team at that time," McCall continued.

Meanwhile England and Saracens lock Maro Itoje had surgery on Tuesday on his fractured hand which has ruled him out of the autumn internationals.

"Of course Maro is disappointed, but he's quite a mature young fella and it's the first setback he has had in this young career of his," McCall said.

"We all hope this is going to be a really long season for Maro, which is going to run into June and July with the Lions, and if that is the case, then potentially this injury has come along at an OK time."

For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion on Twitter.

Subscribe to the BBC Sport newsletter to get our pick of news, features and video sent to your inbox.

Top Stories