Sale Sharks wing Chris Ashton has revealed that England’s recent World Cup feats has led to him deciding on making a return to the Test arena.
The former Saracens and Northampton man scored 20 tries in 44 appearances for England in two spells from 2010 to ’19 but withdrew from England coach Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad for family reasons.
Now he says he would welcome the chance to make another comeback for the 2020 Six Nations after admitting he still feels unfulfilled at international level.
“When I first got in, I planned to be there for a while,” Ashton said. “I’ve got 44 caps and I hoped for a lot more.”
Ashton had effectively called time on his international career in 2016 by moving to Toulon but, after ticking that box, he returned from France two years later and earned an England recall after scoring a hat-trick of tries against them for the Barbarians.
Lifting the lid on his dramatic decision to snub the World Cup, Ashton says he was not prepared to act as back-up to wing regulars Jonny May and Jack Nowell.
“I did struggle being away from my family at the time but I didn’t mind because I wanted to play for England again,” he said.
“The day before we were due to meet up. I couldn’t make my mind up. Then my wife got pregnant so that was it. She was due around the time of the World Cup final.
“But if I had been Jonny May, it would have been a very different scenario. My phone call with Eddie was, ‘Jack (Nowell) is injured, you’re in.’. If I’d been Jonny, I’d have to have gone.
“The warm-up games were fine obviously but when the tournament kicked off, I thought I probably should have gone, although that’s easy in hindsight.
“Sitting at home on the sofa, with the family watching it on TV, it’s easy to think like that.
“If Eddie rang I would definitely love to play again. But I’ll be 33 in March so we will see.”
First up it's familiar foes @staderochelais, and we've got a score to settle after the semi-final last season. Make sure you're there.
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) November 9, 2019
Ashton claims he is still the fastest man at Sale and he is hoping to add to his Champions Cup record haul of 39 tries when the Sharks host La Rochelle on Sunday.
Beaten in their opening fixture at Glasgow, they are boosted by the return of World Cup finalists Faf de Klerk and Tom Curry and Ashton says that has already given the team a lift.
“Faf is so critical to any team that he is in, especially here because a lot of what is happening at Sale and how we are starting to roll along has been driven by him,” he explained.
“So for him to come back – and Tom developing the way he is – you could notice the complete difference in training the last couple of days.
“There is so much energy from the pair of them and now a lot of experience in them both.
“Teams I watched last weekend were lifted by their players coming back from the World Cup and I expect them to do the same this weekend.”