Ashton sheds light on Toulon move

Date published: January 23 2017

Chris Ashton has revealed he decided to leave Saracens for Toulon at the end of the season due to his frustration at not getting picked for England anymore.

Ashton served two lengthy bans in 2016 for foul play which also weighed heavily on his decision to continue his career in France, effectively ending his international career.

The 29-year-old winger served a 10-week ban for making contact with the eye of Ulster centre Luke Marshall last January, ruling him out of the Six Nations coach Eddie Jones had originally picked him for.

Ashton has been overlooked since, and served a 13-week ban last year for biting Northampton prop Alex Waller.

"I was sick of leaving my international career in other people’s hands," said Ashton, who has scored 19 tries in 39 matches for his country, his last appearance coming against New Zealand in 2014.

"The decision is always made by a coach, and like any player who does not get in I disagreed with that decision. I took it into my own hands not to end my international career, because I hope I will play again one day, but for the time being I chose to go to play rugby abroad.

"I will never give up hope but it makes it harder moving abroad. I am happy with the decision I have taken and it was my choice, not anyone else’s."

Ashton laments the effect his decision had on Saracens, who stood by him through his troubles, but says he maintains a good relationship with the club.

"They would rather I stayed, but as I have been since I arrived, and as they are with everyone else, they are very understanding people," Ashton added. 

"You look at it from both sides and they understand my situation with England and how I felt towards that, having been banned again. They understand my motives for wanting to leave; they were disappointed, understandably, and so am I to leave the club.

"It was not something I ever intended doing – I really like this place, and have from the minute I joined. Thankfully, the coaches are very understanding and understood where I came from."

On why he chose Toulon, Ashton said: "Amazing crowd, not that there isn’t here, great stadium, great fans, and they have a very experienced team that plays some good rugby.

"It was an opportunity that came up and there was never any other club. It was the once I fancied going to and it was pretty straightforward. I always dealt with Mourad Boudjellal [the Toulon owner] and Mike Ford has taken charge since. It is a three-year contract.

"I will just be 33 by the end of it. It is too soon to answer whether I will end my career back in England; you never know what is going to happen. I thought I would stay here for the rest of my career, and that soon changes."