Height: 1.81m (5′ 10”)
Weight: 93kg (14st 10 lbs)
Date of Birth: 29th March 1987 (age 21)
Birthplace: Wigan, Greater Manchester
Chris Ashton is a rugby league convert plying his trade for newly-promoted Northampton. This 21-year-old try-scoring dynamo is a great hope for English rugby union going into the new Johnson era.
Ashton’s rugby calibre seems to be in his blood. His father, Kevin Ashton, was a rugby union footballer for Wigan RUFC, and his grandfather was a successful Gaelic footballer. In addition, Ashton’s brother, David, is a rugby league footballer for the Swinton Lions. It was therefore no surprise when Chris broke through into the Wigan Warriors first team at the tender age of 18.
Ashton came through Wigan’s scholarship programme and played in Wigan’s Academy U18s in 2003. He was selected for the 2004 Academy Origin Series and the 2004 victorious England Academy U-18s tour to Australia. After impressing in the academy, where he scored 27 tries in 23 games, he made his Super League debut against Hull in June 2005.
Ashton was brought into the Wigan Warriors squad at the start of 2006 as replacement for the injured Kris Radlinski. He had impressed on his debut in 2005, but in 2006 he showed good skill, pace and talent and impressed many Wigan fans and people within rugby league.
He finished the 2006 season as Wigan’s leading try scorer, his support play throughout the season was second to none, and although some criticisms were made about his defensive abilities, he earned a call into the England squad at the end of the year.
On March 19, 2007 it was announced that Ashton had signed for Northampton Saints for a reported £140,000 a year, more than double the offer that Wigan put in to retain his services, although this figure was fiercely denied by Northampton. Wigan granted Ashton an early release from his contract, freeing him to complete his cross-code move – this cross code switch was not part funded by the RFU.
On September 1, 2007, Ashton made his debut for Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens as a late substitute for Will Harries against London Welsh in National Division One. He scored his first try for the club with his first touch of the ball in the same game, which Saints won 44-11.
Ashton went on to break the National Division One try scorer record, scoring 39 tries (and one conversion) from only 25 appearances. He has firmly established himself as a first team regular at Franklin’s Gardens – only time will tell whether he can replicate his awesome strike rate in the Premiership.