Ashton: “You’ve just got to listen to the criticism that matters.”

Fewer England players seem to get as rough a ride as Chris Ashton. Whether it’s the swallow dive, or the incident with Alesana Tuilagi’s hair, or even the recent announcement that he will leave Northampton Saints at the end of this season, not many seem reluctant to keep their opinions on him to themselves.

This is all despite having scored 15 tries in 21 appearances for England. Admittedly, it is currently four matches since he last crossed the whitewash for his country, but Ashton is not concerned. Speaking to promote RBS RugbyForce, he clarified that as of yet there was no itch. “Not really, not after four games. In this Six Nations, the Wales game was a bit different, but the way the first two games went they just weren’t games for wingers at all. We might as well have had two props out there. I think if you look at the video from the Wales game the chances are there, it’s just about still adapting to the new systems. I’m still doing exactly what I always do, but sometimes it doesn’t go for you.”

It’s for that reason that despite playing in all three matches so far in this year’s Six Nations, Ashton was left frustrated to be without a match last weekend. “There’s always a chance of injury, but it is nice to play every week. It’s pretty difficult when it’s stop-start and it’s been like that all season for me. You always get better and find your best form by playing every week. But there’s not that much you can do about it, you’ve just got to get your head round it.”

His pedigree at international level is enough to tell you that more tries will come. But as Ashton points out, when England’s attack is as limited as it was against Scotland and Italy, he is less likely to be ending up on the scoresheet. However that doesn’t mean that he is not aware of the criticism coming his way, or the threat of Charlie Sharples. “There are some situations that I’ve got no control over. As long as I’m offering and putting myself in the best positions that I can, that’s all I can keep doing.”

“Charlie’s a good player. It’s good to have him around, he’s been struggling of late with a few injuries. There are only three wingers in the squad with me, Strettle and him so we’re always changing around in training. He could definitely fit in there.”

“If you keep working to be the best you can be then I’m sure the chances will come round. There’s a little bit of ignoring what certain people say. Not people like Stuart (Lancaster) obviously, but you’ve just got to listen to the people that matter. That’s the coaches here.”

Ashton’s combination with Strettle, plus three other Saracens in the back line for this year’s tournament with England, will have given fans a taster of things to come at Vicarage Road next season. Joining the current Premiership champions on a four year deal, it’s a move that Ashton is excited about. “It is tough to move on as I’ve spent so much time at Northampton. I’ve got great friends there and the club have done a lot for me. I just think change is good and if the experience is there to be taken I don’t see why I shouldn’t grab it and try to experience everything. Saracens do things differently. That was part of the appeal and right now they’re up there with the best.”

“I was at Wigan from 16, played my first full game at 18 and then had two full seasons for the first team before making the switch to Union. Now that I’ve had five years at Northampton, the time just feels right. After Saracens, the end of which is a long way off, who knows. I’d never rule out going back to league or moving to France. I think it’s just the kind of person that I am, since I’ve been at Northampton I’ve moved house every single year! I like a change of scenery.”

In preparation for next weekend, Ashton watched Sunday’s draw between Ireland and France and felt that France should be disappointed. What did stand out however was the experience in both sides with regards to the number of caps, a figure that England right now are nowhere near. “Both sides had over 600 caps, but I bet we’d struggle to make 200. You need to start somewhere though. I think Robbo (Chris Robshaw) has done really well as captain. Ben Morgan’s been great with the ball in hand. The way Owen Farrell has come in at such a young age and just slotted in has been really impressive.”

On returning to Paris, Ashton admits that his debut in the same fixture the last time England were at the Stade de France feels like an eternity ago. “It does seem a long time ago. Hopefully the one chance that I didn’t take will come around again. But it was a good day and a great place to make your debut. That was our best performance during the Six Nations that year. It’s a massive place to go and play.” If England can produce their season’s best once more in Paris, then a victory is definitely within their grasp.

by Ben Coles

Chris Ashton is supporting RBS RugbyForce, the community volunteer programme that is improving club facilities. To register your club, visit

17 thoughts on “Ashton: “You’ve just got to listen to the criticism that matters.”

  1. I really don’t see why he is being critcised so much, maybe because he started so well people believed it would go onlike that forever, but I would hardly call 4 gamees a dry spell.

    He is absolutely right about the Scotland and Italy games, he didn’t have any chances for us to access his finishing form. As for the Wales game, there were a couple of half chances but in not one could you say he missed the chance because of bad play.

    I think Englands midfield is improving but it is still limited, the passing isn’t good and that will have an effect on the wingers.

    As for the idea that most of his tries have come against weaker teams, well, mosrt of Englands tries have come against weaker teams, and most of NZ’s tries have come against weaker teams. You score more againt weaker teams. It is natural.

    I hope everybody gets off his back, he is a pro and one of Englands better players.

  2. You certainly can’t call it a dry spell if you compare it to Mark Cueto’s! What was it, something like 20 test matches?

    He’ll be back on the score sheet before long, he’s having to adjust to an almost entirely new England team and to play on the opposite side to normal, I believe.

    He needs time to play through it and if Lancaster is that concerned, he should put Sharples on the bench

    I’m just looking forward to the day when he clicks with Tuilagi and Barritt and we get to see his beautifully timed runs again. The centres making the holes and Ashton appearing on their shoulder to take advantage

  3. I think that it is mainly his ability to rub people up the wrong way that has led to all of this. He has an innate arrogance to him like many top sports people (a Mr J Guscott springs to mind and he wasn’t too shabby on the pitch!) and an ill advised book didn’t help. Not to mention that the expectations for him are tremendously high.

    On reflection, I reckon I’ve been too harsh on him as England haven’t exactly been giving him many chances.

  4. I wonder what the odds on Ashton scoring against France are?
    Watching the Ireland v France game, Bowe made them look exposed on his wing. So let’s hope Strettle can exploit that as well. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ashton going over for a score this weekend. They’ve had extra time together, sorting out patterns etc, and with Barritt and Tuilagi, there should be plenty of opportunities for Ashton to come in and play off them.

  5. He’s hit the nail on the head with his description of the Italy and Scotland games. They were not games for wingers, neither was the Wales game really given how tight it was.

  6. I feel sympathy for Ashton’s recent loss of confidence, and I believe this may have initially stemmed from the abuse he received for his infamous swallow dive.

    Chris Ashton has been subject to relentless insult and accusations of arrogance regarding his swallow dive. After watching Scott Williams’s last minute try to take the victory, it was interesting to observe the absence of any objection to Williams’s swallow dive try in the post-match media and even amongst rugby viewers. Evidently, Ashton’s dives have developed more of a reputation, having occurred more frequently over the seasons, but the unmistakable dive with which Scott Williams crossed the line can surely not escape unscathed?

    When interviewed after the 2011 Rugby World Cup regarding his infamous swallow dive, Chris Ashton stated, “Maybe I got a little bit lost in not seeing it from other people’s point of view: how it would look if you weren’t actually out there playing. The dive was just something I did to celebrate scoring, it wasn’t a case of: ‘I’ll do this to make some money out of it.’” This apt defense of a celebration performed whilst scoring 5 points in an international match, having reached the pinnacle of any sporting person’s uppermost ambition (being chosen to represent your country) hardly seems criminal. The lack of opposition to Williams’s try in contrast, suggests that it is not Ashton’s dive that spectators and the media alike took aversion to, but the frequency with which it occurred and the country for whom he was scoring.

    Of course, the media have also avoided addressing the luck of the Welsh in their previous two games. Against England, it was suggested with hindsight that England’s denied try in the dying moments had been grounded, which would have given England the opportunity to equal the scores. Against Ireland, controversy surrounded the unjustified award of a penalty to Wales with seconds to go, from which they scored three points to win the game. Wales have been lucky, and I fear that if England had scraped through with similar style, the media would have not hesitated to slate every element of their game play, and the element of fluke with which they will enter into their forth match against Italy unbeaten.

    Overall, this highlights the way in which the media develops a united bias over time. Despite the privilege of a free press in this nation that must not be overlooked, this label can mislead people to forget the subtle prejudices of our media. There is a tendency within the media to gradually form a cult with alarmingly repetitive views, as one journalist echoes the opinions of another, with a slight slant of individuality enabling them to call it their own. In turn, the overwhelming power of the media to manipulate the views of the people is evident, as demonstrated in a seemingly insignificant event such as the one addressed above. A populist point is made in an article, repeated many times over, and it is never long before the opinions of the masses follow suit.

    1. Lucy, my posts in reply to you are not getting through moderation, possibly because they contain direct links to “the media” calling Wales lucky. In the interests of the debate I’ll post my reply here without the links, you can easily google search “wales rugby lucky” to find the national press articles labelling Wales as lucky.

      An eloquently written delusional paranoid fantasy. Let’s first take this idea that England have been conspired against by “the media” to be labelled as lucky but nobody thinks Wales are lucky … We could start with this “Wales were lucky” article after the England game – See The Telegraph – or perhaps this one after the Ireland game – See The Independent – ?

      I could also quote you dozens of articles praising England in this 6 nations, praising Farrell, praising the ethic that Lancaster seems to have instilled in the team that enables them to take two wins from two away games.

      As for Ashton, which is more likely; he is suffering a loss of form related to poorer distribution from England’s new halfbacks that tend to prefer a fringe based or up and under approach …. Or he’s decided to play badly because of the abuse you imagine he recieved for his swan dive?

      Your prejudices are plain to see, well constructed and show a remarkable ability to present your personal fantasies as if they are facts.

      1. Gosh, who have guessed that an article on Chris Ashton would evolve into a discussion into the bias shown by sections of the media!

        I agree with Brighty, there have been plenty of articles in the media about Wales and luck, it certainly hasn’t been ignored. There have also been very few articles critical of the new England

        It did seem that the English media got it into their collective heads that England during the RWC were a fair target for all kinds of accusations and sensational reporting – whether or not it had much basis in truth. Certain writers on certain newspapers seemed to think that people want to read gossip rather than rugby articles.

        This seems to have changed now and I don’t recall it being as bad previously.

        As for the swan dive, it wasn’t the media that castigated Ashton for it, if anything they encouraged it. The people that hated it were mainly fans from other nations. This was partly because they believed it was arrogant but, in my opinion, mostly because it was an English player who was doing it. England are the team that other nations love to hate

        After all, none of those who discussed their hatred for Ashton ever seemed to mind Shane Williams doing exactly the same thing….

        I would add that there were also some England fans who joined in the Ashton kicking, but there will always be English people suffering from ‘tall-poppy’ syndrome.

        However, none of this is reason for him not scoring. Brighty is right. It is a product of a mostly new team and a style of game that does not suit his skillls

    2. Lucy I would not put Scott Williams dive to score in the same league of celebrations as Chris Ashton’s “swallow dive” v Wales last year. Yes they are both exuberant but my bug bear with Ashton’s dive (and MJ’s at the time I believe) was the precarious situation of the ball! my mind goes back to Dominici dropping the ball a few years ago whilst overly casually placing the ball…

  7. If he wants to score tries, why doesn’t he position himself off Tuilagi’s shoulder once in a while? Surely it’s a winger’s role to be there or thereabouts when a linebreak is made. Tuilagi and Farrell created options that went begging against Wales because no one was there to carry the play on.

    Also, I don’t agree with the comment ‘wingers may have well been props’. In all six nations games this season, there have been plenty of chances for counter attack.

    Forget the kicking duels and get involved.

    1. Cramps, I don’t remember much opportunity for open play during England Italy, when the snow was on the ground

      Anyway give him a chance, He’s had one game this 6 Nations with Tuilagi. I’m sure both he and the England coaching set-up are well aware that postioning himself just off tuilagi’s shoulder is a good idea

      1. Paolo,

        It’s not club rugby, it’s test rugby. And they’ve had a whole world cup year to sort something out.

  8. Dear Chris

    Score a winning try against the french on sunday and you can dive head first into a champagne and stripper filled bath and no one will be bothered

    the end!

  9. Well he has done the book so I guess it is time for him to retire. That is what happens is it not ? career- book- retire, Job done…… Oh maybe a bit of TV and self publicity stuff, anything that gets him in the limelight… panel shows, record, supermarket openings…. etc , etc , etc ,

    1. Nice blog. I guess Chuter must think the Wellington Hurricanes are named after WW II aircraft and not the conditions they often play in.

      I’m not sure that Brian Redpath or Connor O’Shea would agree that promotion and relegation mean you have to play crap rugby either.

      Back to the point, Ashton is in victim mode. He has become very defensive because of all the flak he’s been copping over the last year. I would would like the honest hard working lad from Wigan, for whom a spectalur dive was an expression of joy for scoring a try for his country, to just enjoy himself again. 1 good Twickers try, 80000 people cheering, a few nice words in the press and he will be fine again. As I see it his only crime is not being the sharpest tool in the box and a little naive in how actions, with no malintent, would be perceived by the press.

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