Ashton not expecting England call

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Published: Sunday 18th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Chris Ashton admits he is “not expecting anything” when England boss Stuart Lancaster announces his squad for this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship on Wednesday.

The Saracens wing has not played Test rugby since last summer’s New Zealand tour.

He has slipped down Lancaster’s pecking order behind the likes of Jonny May, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde and Semesa Rokoduguni, yet there can be little doubt that Ashton is currently a player in prime form.

His two-try contribution helped Saracens inflict a 33-10 European Champions Cup drubbing on Munster – the Irish giants’ heaviest defeat in European competition for more than 18 years.

But Ashton’s all-round excellence, especially his kicking game, also gained plaudits as Saracens set up a Pool One decider against French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne next weekend.

The 27-year-old has scored 19 tries in 39 Tests – he is ninth on the all-time England list – and he unquestionably remains an outstanding finisher.

Asked to assess his immediate England chances, the former rugby league star said: “I don’t expect anything, to be honest.

“I am out of it at the minute, so I have got to fight and get my way back in there, so I am not expecting anything.

“Thankfully, being at this club I get to play in games like the one against Munster.

“Hopefully, Stuart will recognise it. My hunger to play for England is still exactly the same as it was, and that will never change. I want to be there and I want to be playing.

“After last season, I felt as though I’d had my best season, and I have carried that on into this season.”

Ashton’s display was hailed by Saracens rugby director Mark McCall, who added: “Chris was outstanding.

“Not just his two tries, which were good, but some of his kicking game early on allowed us to control things.”

Victory for Saracens next Sunday will guarantee they win the group and secure a quarter-final place, although a losing bonus point could still be enough for them to progress among three best runners-ups across the five pools.

Ashton said: “Not many teams go there (Clermont) and win, but we want to make memories. I think we made one (against Munster), and hopefully next Sunday we will make another one.

“I have always wanted to play in Clermont, so I am looking forward to it. This competition gives you those opportunities.

“It is one of the toughest places (in Europe) to go, with the record they’ve had there for many years and the players they’ve got.

“The way they play their rugby there, they want to entertain, and their fans expect nothing less.”

Saracens dominated Munster throughout the contest at Allianz Park, with number eight Billy Vunipola playing a starring role alongside Ashton.

Vunipola, who is favourite to replace broken leg victim Ben Morgan in England’s starting line-up for the Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on February 6, produced an inspired display.

“Billy was phenomenal.” McCall added.

“He was a force of nature in attack and defence, but I thought we had outstanding performances right through the group.

“We are in a position where we go to Clermont, and if we win the match, we win the pool. That is what our intention is going to be.”

Published: Sunday 18th January 2015 by The News Editor

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