WHAT MAKES CHRIS ASHTON A PROLIFIC SCORER EVEN THOUGH Chris Ashton has yet to play for England under Eddie Jones, the Australian may yet consider the prolific winger for the autumn series, despite a seven-week ban for a pre-season tip tackle for new club
T he Sale Sharks wing is too good f or England to ignore, writes
The timing of the suspension is hugely disappointing for Ashton, particularly after his scintillating performance for the Barbarians against England at the end of last season.
Ashton is not everyone’s cup of tea, what with his swallow dive and antics towards referees. But you cannot deny his try-scoring record and ability to light up a crowd with searing interventions in matches. He has made the transition from rugby league seamlessly and is one of the few players who has been able to transfer many of his league skills to the modern union game.
As a result, he is no longer considered simply as a winger. Having played full-back for Wigan Warriors, he has been given the opportunity to show his worth in the No 15 shirt and it was from this position that he crossed for a first-half hat-trick in May at Twickenham – the illustrations you see here come from that match. There is no doubt Sale will exploit Ashton’s skill-set as an interchangeable back-three player. Ashton runs clever lines of support. The key is in his vision and eye for space. He judges to perfection where the run of a ball-carrier will take him, so he can be on the inside support for a pass or offload. Playing at full-back allows Ashton more freedom to roam into midfield, from where he runs what are called ‘cheat’ lines. Instead of running long arcs from ruck to ruck, he anticipates play and runs laterally on an inside line. Using his scanning and vision, he can pop up where needed for an inside pass and his acceleration from a slow start is electrifying and catches blindsided defenders unaware. Below, his cheat line enables him to take an offload from Finn Russell and score a try.