England Rugby
Farrell heaps praise on Ashton
ESPNscrum Staff
December 10, 2011
England's Chris Ashton celebrates scoring a try, Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 4, 2011
Winger Chris Ashton was recently hit with a four-week ban sidelining him until the New Year © Getty Images

England's new assistant coach Andy Farrell is excited about the prospect of working with fellow cross-code convert Chris Ashton.

Ashton has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent weeks, from his off-field antics at the World Cup to the ban he is currently serving for dragging Leicester wing Alesana Tuilagi by his hair. But Farrell, unveiled as part of England's interim coaching team earlier this week, views Ashton as a unique talent and he believes the Northampton wing will be back to his best in the Six Nations, a year on from setting an England try-scoring record in the championship.

Ashton, who like Farrell switched to union from rugby league side Wigan, scored six times as England lifted the 2011 title and he was the joint-top try-scorer at the World Cup, despite England failing to use their strike runners to full effect. "I watched him against Leicester last weekend and he was outstanding," said Farrell, who will be seconded to England from Saracens, where he is first team coach. Everybody has a story to tell. Chris will let his rugby do the talking.

"Strip everything back and look at the guy as a rugby player. Why is he a good rugby player, why does he score so many tries? That is what needs to be brought out about Chris Ashton. He works harder than any other winger and that is why he is in the position to score the tries in the first place."

Farrell's admiration for Ashton could well be shared by the rest of the Saracens management team, with reports suggesting the Aviva Premiership champions are lining up a move for the 24-year-old. Ashton will spend the next month sidelined after Northampton yesterday decided against appealing his four-week ban, despite declaring it to be "harsh".

Ashton was suspended for unsportsmalike conduct after being found guilty of dragging Tuilagi off the field by his dreadlocks. The incident, which occured in the first half of Leicester's 30-25 victory, sparked a touchline brawl and led to Tuilagi and Northampton forward Tom Wood being sent off.

Northampton still disagree with the severity of Ashton's ban but announced: "Following considerable deliberation, the Northampton Saints team management has decided not to appeal against the sanction imposed upon Chris Ashton earlier this week.

"Although the management still believes the sanction was harsh, and imposed because of what happened afterwards rather than the action offence itself - something Judge Jeff Blackett noted in his own comments on Tuesday evening - the management also believes that it is best that a line is now drawn under the incident.

"Chris himself is determined to use this as a learning experience and to work hard over the next four weeks to become a better player for Northampton Saints and hopefully earn selection in England's Six Nations squad in the New Year."

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