Ashe fired up af­ter his fi­nal chance went up in smoke

Promis­ing No.8 be­lieves end-of-sea­son set­back will in­spire him to greater things

The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY UNION - STU­ART BATH­GATE

SOME­TIMES a sin­gle set­back can teach you more than a string of suc­cesses. That, at least, is the con­clu­sion Adam Ashe be­lieves he can take from be­ing left out of the Glas­gow squad for the PRO12 fi­nal last month.

Af­ter mak­ing his Test de­but on last year’s sum­mer tour, the 21-year-old es­tab­lished him­self this sea­son as one of the most promis­ing mem­bers of Vern Cotter’s Scot­land team. The same could be said of him at the War­riors, where his dy­namic per­for­mances at No.8 seemed to have ce­mented his claim to be an al­most au­to­matic pick.

When it came to the fi­nal against Mun­ster, how­ever, Gre­gor Townsend thought dif­fer­ently, omit­ting Ashe from the squad al­to­gether. It was not the first time that the coach had made a sur­pris­ing team se­lec­tion – and not the first time, ei­ther, that he was wholly vin­di­cated, as his pre­ferred back row of Rob Har­ley, Josh Strauss and Ryan Wil­son played a vi­tal role in the 31-13 vic­tory.

In public, Townsend had ex­plained when an­nounc­ing his team that he had opted for max­i­mum phys­i­cal­ity, and omit­ted to crit­i­cise Ashe. In pri­vate, he told his No.8 that he thought he had fallen just short of top form over the pre­ced­ing cou­ple of games.

If there had in­deed been a slight de­cline, it was one which many lesstu­tored eyes than Townsend’s had failed to spot. But Ashe has now taken on board the les­son that, at the high­est level of rugby, even a mi­nor loss of form can be enough to make you lose your place.

“It was a tough time for me, ob­vi­ously play­ing in the semi-fi­nal and then miss­ing out for the fi­nal,” he said ear­lier this week at the na­tional squad’s train­ing camp in Font Romeu. “Gre­gor spoke to me and gave his rea­sons why. I’ve just got to use it as a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: at Glas­gow now you’ve got to be at the top of your game ev­ery time you pull the shirt on.

“Gre­gor ob­vi­ously went for a dif­fer­ent mix for that par­tic­u­lar game, hav­ing a seven (Chris Fusaro) on the bench and Ryan in at open­side. You just have to roll with it, I sup­pose. Gre­gor spoke to me and said he felt my form had dipped slightly in the cou­ple of pre­vi­ous games. It didn’t drop a lot, but just two or three per cent was enough for him to make the de­ci­sion on that oc­ca­sion.

“A lot of peo­ple said to me it was a harsh de­ci­sion in some ways, but that’s how it goes. Some peo­ple are go­ing to miss out and be dis­ap­pointed.

“You’ve got to put the team first in these sit­u­a­tions. You want them to win and do well – and they did. We all played our part in get­ting us there.”

It is a les­son Ashe hopes will help him keep his place in the squad for the Rugby World Cup when the num­bers are cut from 46 to 31 at the start of Septem­ber. He is one of nine listed as back-row play­ers, although Har­ley, in­cluded with the locks, will also be among the com­pe­ti­tion.

And, no mat­ter how much the week in France was about learn­ing to work well to­gether as a group, that com­pe­ti­tion will keep ev­ery­one on their toes as the count­down to the World Cup con­tin­ues back at BT Mur­ray­field. “We’re a team and we all get on pretty well, but at the end of the day you’re com­pet­ing with guys around you,” Ashe added. “We’re all push­ing hard in­di­vid­u­ally, but ul­ti­mately some peo­ple are go­ing to make it and some aren’t.

“It’s cer­tainly tough work,” he con­tin­ued when asked about the camp in the Pyre­nees. “It’s been en­joy­able: we’ve had some tough times, but at the same time there’s al­ways been light at the end of the tun­nel. For in­stance we climbed a hill, but then at the end of it we had a bar­be­cue, which was good fun. It’s a lot eas­ier when ev­ery­one around you is putting the work in as well.

“He (Cotter) knows that ev­ery other coun­try pre­par­ing for the World Cup will be do­ing the same kind of thing, so it’s about go­ing that ex­tra yard to achieve gains in front of them. It’s all for a pur­pose and ev­ery­one wants it.”

That sur­prise omis­sion by Glas­gow has made Ashe want it all the more. But the War­riors’ win in Belfast has also pro­vided pos­i­tive en­cour­age­ment, by prov­ing to a pre­vi­ously suc­cessstarved group of play­ers that Scot­tish teams can emerge vic­to­ri­ous on the big oc­ca­sion.

“For us to win the PRO12 and Ed­in­burgh to get to that Euro­pean (Chal­lenge Cup) fi­nal is fan­tas­tic. It does a lot for the coun­try, gives ev­ery­one con­fi­dence and tells us that we’re up there at club level so why can’t we be up there at na­tional level? Hope­fully we can use that go­ing into this cam­paign.”

STOK­ING THE FLAMES: Back-row Ashe was dis­ap­pointed to be dropped for the PRO12 fi­nal but in­sists it will mo­ti­vate him

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