Chris Ashton runs with the ball during an England training
session at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot. (Photo by David
Winger Chris Ashton, forced to watch from the stands
through suspension, was so frustrated at missing England's
54-12 victory over Fiji that he walked out of Twickenham after
an hour and drove home in a sulk.
As England scored seven tries, including two by his direct
replacement Charlie Sharples, Ashton was left to rue the
three yellow cards that led to his one-game ban, knowing he
was missing a glorious opportunity to end his personal try
Having nailed 15 in his first 17 internationals, the former
rugby league man has now gone nine without scoring.
"It's killing me," he told reporters, having been recalled in
place of Ugo Monye in England's only change for Saturday's
game against Australia.
"I was pleased for Charlie but it was so frustrating to see
so many tries being scored and not be involved.
"It was so frustrating I had to leave after 60 minutes, I
couldn't watch it. I just went out to the car park and drove
home. Every now and then I put the radio on but I had to turn
it straight off again. I couldn't even listen.
"Two weeks goes pretty slowly when you're not allowed to
play. It's been tough and I'm glad I'm back involved."
Down-to-earth Ashton is no prima donna and stressed that he
would far rather see England win without him scoring than
lose with him crossing the line.
But for a man who made such an explosive impact in his early
tests, the dry spell is hard to deal with.
"I've not changed anything, I'm trying to do what I do
normally," he said. "Maybe we're not making quite the same
number of breaks at the moment but there's not much I can do
Coach Stuart Lancaster certainly has no concerns. "He's a
proven try scorer over the long haul for us," he said. "He
hasn't scored so many recently, but you watch him in training
and he's popping up all over the place.
"He's hungry for the ball, his work rate off the ball is
outstanding and his positioning and the understanding in the
back three with (Saracens team mate and fullback) Alex Goode
is a strength for us."
Only four players from each starting team survive from their
last meeting at Twickenham two years ago, when Ashton blasted
into public consciousness with a wonderful
Created with some ambitious work on their own try line by
scrumhalf Ben Youngs and lock Courtney Lawes, Ashton had the
home crowd roaring as he tore clear before braking suddenly
to wrong-foot Drew Mitchell then sprinting away and diving
over the line for his second score in the record 35-18
"There were a lot of new faces that day and there was a 'no
fear' mentality how we played," said Ashton, whose first
international try also came against the Wallabies in the
21-20 Sydney victory earlier that year.
"I think sometimes you get that against Australia, the way
they play it's an open game and you're encouraged to play
that way as well.
"It was just one of those days, they only happen once in a
while and people still talk about it."
England fans hoping that day would herald a bright new era of
attacking rugby were to be disappointed, however, as Martin
Johnson's team eventually retreated into their conservative
Only flyhalf Toby Flood, prop Dan Cole and lock Tom Palmer of
Saturday's starting team also remain as England set about
another rebuilding job.
"It's relatively similar this time, a lot of new people, but
our defence is a lot stronger now," said Ashton.
"I've got 26 caps but I still feel relatively new here and I
think with Stuart coming in it's new for everyone and we're
all enjoying that."