England v Italy, Six Nations, March 9
Ashton baffled by criticism
March 2, 2013
Chris Ashton has scored 17 tries in 32 Test appearances for England © PA Photos
Under-fire England winger Chris Ashton has launched a stern defence of his game in response to the barrage of criticism that followed his performance against France last month.
England kept their Six Nations Grand Slam dream alive with an impressive 23-13 victory at Twickenham but the result was not enough to save Ashton from being singled out for his defensive shortcomings in the build-up to a superb individual score for France's Wesley Fofana and a rush of blood that saw him throw the ball at rival Benjamin Fall in the closing moments of the game.
The 25-year-old is baffled by accusations of defensive frailty and insists he is not tackle-shy as his critics would have you believe. "I thought there was a lot of heat for one tackle, although I am trying to get better at that all the time," he told PA Sport. "This is new for me. I don't know where all this defence stuff has come from. I'm not afraid to tackle - I want to tackle.
"I want to hurt people - that was the issue with my shoulder charging - I just want to hurt someone. Sometimes people are bigger than you and they are going to get the better of you. One tackle has cost us a try, but I was caught out by an outstanding player and he scored a try. At some point Fofana is going to do that again.
"I got myself into an uncompromising position and it was unfortunate that I gave him that time to use his footwork on me and get away from me. At this level you can't really afford to let those things happen. I put more than enough pressure on myself to know that. I'm my own worst critic and I will be trying to get better at it."
The decision by England coach Stuart Lancaster to rest him from Aviva Premiership duty this weekend signifies he will start against Italy next Saturday when he will be hoping for a repeat of the four-try haul he claimed when the two sides met at Twickenham two years ago. However, last month's try against Scotland was Ashton's only score in his last eight Championship matches.
"Apparently I'm playing badly, but I don't really see it to be honest," he said. "Stuart Lancaster and (assistant coach) Andy Farrell have given me things to work on every week and they've been pretty happy with that.
"I want to be in this team every week - that is all that matters to me. I don't really care about anything else - I just want to be in this team. For people to say I'm doing stuff wrong and shouldn't be in this team, it hurts, so I have got to get better at that.
"Italy two years ago was just an exceptional day - we made a lot of breaks. Whenever we make a lot of breaks I like to think I'm going to get on the end of some tries. Games are getting harder, especially in the Six Nations and those kind of breaks are not coming along as often.
"I'm probably doing too much at the minute, chasing absolutely everything and tiring myself out for the situations when I am actually needed. I can't sit back on that two years ago and be done with it - I have got to keep getting better and finding other opportunities, even in tight games and I am trying to do that."
Ashton has also played down concerns about his indiscipline with his altercation with Fall a rare mental lapse from a side that has been controlled and ruthless of late. "There was no intent in it. All I did was throw it walk away and then the game is over - I had no idea," he said. "I didn't mean it to cause the lads coming running in - I didn't really want that - it was just me and him. That is why as soon as I had done it I walked away from him not realising the lads were running in behind me."
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