Rugby: Ashton raring to go after Fiji frustrations

Chris Ashton runs with the ball during an England training session at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Chris Ashton runs with the ball during an England training session at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
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 drought.

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 about it."

'POPPING UP'

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 length-of-the-field try.

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 victory.

"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 shell.

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."