England v France, Six Nations, Twickenham, February 26
Ashton: I cannot be stopped
February 25, 2011
Chris Ashton scores in spectacular style against Italy at Twickenham a fortnight ago © Getty Images
England's newest superstar Chris Ashton is wholly unperturbed by the prospect of being man-marked by France in Saturday's crucial Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
Ashton has been the undoubted story of the Championship so far, having notched six tries in his country's opening two games, against Wales and Italy. If he touches/splashes down against Les Bleus this weekend, he will break the Six Nations try-scoring record which he currently shares with Shane Williams and Will Greenwood.
Given the sensational form that Ashton is in, France have unsurprisingly identified Ashton as England's principal attacking threat. However, the Northampton Saints winger is not in the least bit worried by the fact that he is likely to be the focus of the French defence.
"I will just keep doing what I am doing. There is nothing you can say about it, there's nothing you can do about it," Ashton said. "There is not really a feasible way of man-marking someone. It is too hard to follow. I don't know where I am going half the time, not until I see where everyone else is running.
"I don't know what the French are thinking but if they want to track me, then it is perfect for us. If you do that, you are going to leave a hole somewhere else. I can only see it creating opportunities elsewhere for the other players in this team.
"If chances keep arising and the team is playing well then I am sure I will keep scoring tries."
Indeed, Ashton admitted that he is merely trying to follow the example being set by the aforementioned Williams, who, at 34, remains one of the most dangerous wingers in world rugby.
"Shane Williams has been doing all this for a long time. I'm just trying to copy him and if I could achieve half of what he's done, I'd be a happy man," the former league starlet said.
"As a player there are not many wingers who have done any better than Shane Williams. He plays the game the way I like to play it: he's all over the pitch."
Consequently, Ashton feels it would be a "massive honour" to take outright possession of the Championship try-scoring record.
"Anything to do with Shane Williams is massive," he said. "(But) I am just glad I'm scoring. Records are not something I am concentrating on. I am more bothered about how I am performing and that England are winning games. If that means that tries are going to come and records are going to be broken along the way then so be it."
Ashton made his Test debut against France last year but while England performed well in Paris, they came out on the wrong end of a 12-10 defeat. That final scoreline was particularly galling for Ashton, who blew a gilt-edged try-scoring opportunity when, with just Clement Poitrenaud to beat, he decided to chip ahead rather than take the French fullback on.
"It was the first time I was playing on the left wing and it was my first cap, so it was a whole different experience for me," Ashton said of the chance. "I don't think I'll ever kick the ball again! But it was part of a steep learning curve and I think I'm a bit further along that now.
"I have matured now and I know a bit more about the game and experienced a bit more and been in that position a few more times. I'd like to think I wouldn't kick the ball again in that position."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.