Rugby World - - THE ANALYST -

Rugby league play­ers are well versed in at­tack­ing kicks close to the line. On the sixth tackle in their sport, a range of chips, bombs, grub­bers and cross-field kicks af­fords them the chance to score or re­gain pos­ses­sion for a fur­ther set of tackle phases. It’s some­thing that is prac­tised re­li­giously, and Ash­ton has de­vel­oped a va­ri­ety of kicks that bring added value, par­tic­u­larly in the act of scor­ing. In the Bar­bar­ians match, he took a pass at pace on the wing and dropped the ball onto his right foot with such tim­ing and tra­jec­tory that it evaded El­liot Daly at just the right height and weight into the in-goal area. With his stride un­bro­ken, Ash­ton eas­ily won the race to the touch­down. It makes sense to use Ash­ton’s rapier abil­ity as much as pos­si­ble in at­tacks – in­clud­ing in be­hind the cen­tres. This was a fea­ture of his play at Sara­cens and Toulon, who each have tens that take the ball to the line and pow­er­ful cen­tres that at­tract de­fend­ers. By com­ing in from the blind-side wing, be­hind the cen­tres on an arced run, Ash­ton is dif­fi­cult for de­fend­ers to pick up. All he needs is a half-gap and, given the right pass, he cuts through. He’s ex­cel­lent at con­trol­ling his foot speed, quick­en­ing when needed to make breaks but slow­ing once a cover de­fender closes him down and then bring­ing sup­port play­ers into play. Here, his all-round qual­ity makes a try for Finn Rus­sell.

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