Aviva Premiership
Chris Ashton excited by new challenge
ESPN Staff
July 13, 2012
England's Chris Ashton races in to score a try, England v Barbarians, Twickenham, England, May 27, 2012
England winger Chris Ashton will be lining up for Saracens in this season's Aviva Premiership © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Chris Ashton
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Teams: England | Saracens

England winger Chris Ashton can't wait to return to domestic matters with his new club Saracens ahead of the start of the Aviva Premiership season.

The 25-year-old opted to cut his ties with Northampton earlier this year and is set to embark on a new chapter in his career when Sarries kick off their Premiership campaign against London Irish at Twickenham in the traditional London Double Header season-opener at Twickenham on September 1.

Ashton will link up with his new team-mates later this month after an extended break in the wake of England's recent tour to South Africa and he is counting down the days. "One of the main reasons why I decided to make this move is because I'm ready for a new challenge," he told the Daily Mail. "Obviously it was a shame to leave Northampton after five very good years there but there comes a point in life and in your career where you have to look for something else."

Ashton was widely criticised for the manner of his exit from the Saints but the former rugby league star is not dwelling on the past as he gears up for what he hopes will be a successful season with his new club. "Of course I have lots of friends at Northampton but it's time to move on and move forward. I have no regrets over anything that's happened.

"I'm building up slowly for the new season. The pre-season training at Northampton used to pretty hardcore and I'm guessing that it'll be the same at Saracens. It sounds strange considering how painful it can be, but I can't wait to get started."

Ashton has failed to score during the series defeat to the Springboks and has not crossed for England in his last nine Test appearances since his try against Scotland in last year's Rugby World Cup clash with Scotland. But any concerns about his own form are outweighed by the progress he has witnessed within the squad as a whole.

"It's always going to be tough for any team touring South Africa but we grew in confidence as we went on and the final game ended in a draw when we were a drop goal away from getting a win," he said. "I think as a group, we've moved on and under the new manager we're learning new things all the time and improving. Stuart has engaged the team and brought tremendous energy to the job, creating an ethos of everyone working together. He's got us back on track."

Next up for England is a daunting end of year campaign that will see Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand with Ashton's eyes set on revenge against the Boks. "We have this hoodoo with South Africa at the moment," he said, "but it'll be better when we play them in England, in English conditions and in front of our own fans at Twickenham.

"We're all looking forward to them coming over in the autumn and getting one over on them. We're looking towards the future with the young players that have been brought in, but there's a great amount of experience mixed in there as well."

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