Ashton - 'I was lucky not to be dropped'
October 30, 2013
The way he was ... Chris Ashton with a trademark try against the All Blacks last December © PA Photos
Chris Ashton admitted he was surprised not to have been dropped by England last season as his form fell away, the nadir coming when he looked all at sea during England's thumping by Wales.
"I think I was very lucky to stay in the team throughout," he said. "Thanks to Stu [Lancaster] for keeping the faith with me, so I have to repay that faith now."
He said that missing out on the Lions tour was "horrible", adding: "I pretty much knew I wouldn't be anywhere near the squad after the Wales game. But to go through that day when the squad was announced, it was horrible to watch.
"It did take time for me to say, 'Just let it go'. Lads were getting called up when I was on holiday. You've just got to let it go, forget about it and make sure this year's different. I knew my phone wouldn't ring. I think I turned it off in the end. I'd pretty much given up."
He was rested by England over the summer and he believes he is back to close to his best and that can only be good for England.
Ashton races away to score against Australia in 2010 © PA Photos
"I'm enjoying my rugby again," he said. "There was a point where I wasn't enjoying it as much last year. I was trying so hard and it became a bit frustrating for me. But we've changed the way we play at Saracens, which has got me a bit more involved. I feel more comfortable and relaxed, and back to myself again.
"I had the summer off, got away and relaxed. I looked at what I needed to work on and tried to make the basics of my game better; kick-chase, defence, positioning. Sometimes I was just chasing absolutely everything, trying harder and harder and it was having a negative effect."
Ashton said as his form wobbled he should have trusted the advice coming from others. "What the coaches said at the time, I wasn't really sure if they were right. Now, looking back, I know they were right, but it's hard to take sometimes, at that point.
"You're trying so hard to do well and it just sends you into a downward spiral, thinking about everything way too much. I understand now where I was going wrong."
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