Ash­ton is given first start for four years

Sale Sharks wing dis­lodges Now­ell from Eng­land team as Moon is pro­moted from bench

Western Morning News - - Sport - BY DUN­CAN BECH

Head coach Ed­die Jones has given Chris Ash­ton his first Eng­land start for four years, be­liev­ing his nose for the try­line will be cru­cial in to­mor­row’s long-awaited Test against New Zealand.

Ash­ton will line up on the right wing at Twick­en­ham in place of Ex­eter Chiefs’ Jack Now­ell, who drops down to the re­place­ments’ bench, af­ter im­press­ing dur­ing his 15-minute spell in the 12-11 vic­tory over South Africa that opened the au­tumn in­ter­na­tional se­ries last week­end.

The 31-year-old Sale Sharks wing has amassed 40 caps in an in­ter­na­tional ca­reer in­ter­rupted by a run of lengthy sus­pen­sions, fall­ing out of favour with suc­ces­sive Eng­land coaches and a sea­son­long spell in Toulon.

How­ever, his strike rate of 19 tries makes him a key weapon that Jones in­sists must be de­ployed from the start this week­end at Twick­en­ham, where the old ri­vals col­lide for the first time in four years.

“It’s more of an or­der change. Jack [Now­ell] played ex­cep­tion­ally well for us last week, but when you’re play­ing against New Zealand the 80 min­utes are im­por­tant,” Jones said yes­ter­day.

“Jack has got an in­cred­i­ble work-rate, so we feel he’ll be enor­mously valu­able for us in the last 20 min­utes.

“Chris [Ash­ton] can sniff a try from any­where,” the Aus­tralian added. “To beat New Zealand, you’ve got to score tries. He’s in good form and has looked sharp, so we’ve given him the nod to start.”

There are two fur­ther changes to the team that top­pled South Africa. Now­ell’s Ex­eter club-mate Ben Moon comes in for his first start for Eng­land, af­ter mak­ing his Test de­but as a re­place­ment last Satur­day.

Moon takes over from an­other Chiefs player Alec Hep­burn, who started last week­end, at loose­head prop. Bath flanker Sam Un­der­hill re­places Tom Curry, who has been ruled out of the re­main­der of the au­tumn se­ries by an an­kle in­jury.

Ex­eter’s Henry Slade re­tains his place in the start­ing XV, while his Sandy Park club­mate Harry Wil­liams will be on the bench along­side Now­ell and Hep­burn.

Le­ices­ter Tigers’ Manu Tuilagi is over­looked for the bench as Eng­land strive to re­store him to full fit­ness in time for the fi­nal two matches of the au­tumn se­ries, against Ja­pan and Aus­tralia. He was due to face South Africa as a re­place­ment but was with­drawn on the eve of the match due to a mi­nor groin strain and, al­though he has now re­cov­ered, Jones be­lieves the ram­pag­ing cen­tre is best served by a cau­tious ap­proach to his come­back.

Groin and knee surgery have pre­vented him from start­ing for Eng­land since 2014 and his most re­cent ap­pear­ance was against Wales two years ago.

“Manu is just not quite right. He’s nearly there and we feel like he’ll be of enor­mous value to us in the fu­ture,” Jones said. “Rather than take any risks with him, we’re be­ing con­ser­va­tive in his man­age­ment.

“He’s just not quite right, so we’re go­ing to see if we get him 100 cent right. It would be nice if that’s for Ja­pan. We’ll worry about that next week.”

Court­ney Lawes re­turns to the bench af­ter over­com­ing a back prob­lem, forc­ing Zach Mercer out of the match-day 23. “We looked at a num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties for Curry, but we wanted a like-for-like player and Un­der­hill is a like-for-like player,” Jones said.

“Sam has had a few in­jury is­sues but this is a great op­por­tu­nity for him. He’s strong at the break­down and will cer­tainly fill the role that Tom did so well in last week.”

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