Chris Ashton recalled to England squad

Duncan Bech 13:22 03/08/2018
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Chris Ashton has not played for England since 2014.

Chris Ashton has edged towards reviving his England career after Eddie Jones was convinced of his determination by a “glint in his eye.”

Ashton has been included in a 44-man pre-season training squad that will gather in Teddington this weekend just weeks after ending his three-season contract at Toulon two years ahead of schedule in order to join Sale.

The former Saracens wing set a new try-scoring record for the Top 14 but his determination to add to his 39 caps, combined with family reasons, inspired his return to the Gallagher Premiership.

Jones spoke to Ashton before the 31-year-old plundered a hat-trick for the Barbarians against England in May and was quickly persuaded by his intent.

“We had a quick chat and he had a bit of a glint in his eye, which indicated something and that something was that he wanted to come back to England,” Jones said.

“Chris had the idea in his head. He wants to play for England and he sees this as his last opportunity so we’re very pleased that he’s made that decision. We’re looking forward to what he can bring to the table.”

Ashton appeared in Jones’ first squad in January 2016 but had to withdraw after being banned for gouging and in the summer that same year he turned down the chance to tour South Africa with the Saxons due to the birth of his first child.

Further opportunities were limited by another lengthy suspension, this time for biting, and he claimed his disillusionment with the disciplinary process drove him to signing for Toulon, thereby making him unavailable for England.

But a sensational debut season in the Top 14 has persuaded one of the sport’s deadliest finishers that he can still be a force at the highest level.

“Chris is an exceptional player, I think we have seen with his form at Saracens then at Toulon, he has played exceedingly well,” Jones said.

“He’s come back to England because he wants to play for England so he has got the right desire, the right attitude, so it will be good to work with him.”

Dylan Hartley features in the squad that will participate in a three-day training camp that begins on Saturday.

Hartley missed the summer tour to South Africa due to concussion and has not played since the final match of the Six Nations against Ireland at Twickenham, but has returned to full fitness.

“It’s good for Dylan. He got married over the summer and he’s just got back from his honeymoon,” Jones said.

“He’s done some quality pre-season work so it’s great to have him back in the mix. We’re pleased to have him there.”

The only players who were involved against the Springboks not to be present this weekend are flanker Brad Shields, wing Denny Solomona and number eight Billy Vunipola, who was forced home with a recurrence of a fractured arm.

Still missing due to injury, fitness or other are prop Dan Cole, centre Jonathan Joseph, centre Manu Tuilagi, full-back Anthony Watson and scrum-half Danny Care.

England training squad

Backs: C Ashton (Sale), M Brown (Harlequins), D Cipriani (Gloucester), J Cokanasiga (Bath), E Daly (Wasps), N Earle (Harlequins), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Leicester), P Francis (Northampton), G Ibitoye (Harlequins), A Lozowski (Saracens), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Leicester), J Olowofela (Leicester), D Robson (Wasps), H Slade (Exeter), B Spencer (Saracens), B Te’o (Worcester), B Youngs (Leicester).

Forwards: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), T Curry (Sale), J George (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton), J Haskell (Northampton), A Hepburn (Exeter), P Hill (Northampton), N Hughes (Wasps), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), J Kpoku (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), M Rhodes (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Simmonds (Exeter), K Sinckler (Harlequins), J Singleton (Worcester), W Spencer (Leicester), E Stooke (Bath), S Underhill (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Williams (Exeter), M Wilson (Newcastle).

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