Chris Ashton back to haunt Australia after England recall
Thursday 15 November 2012
Chris Ashton is back to haunt Australia after being recalled to the England side for Saturday's Cook Cup showdown at Twickenham.
Ashton's inclusion on the right wing, with Charlie Sharples switching to the left in place of Ugo Monye, is the only change to the England side that beat Fiji 54-12 last week.
The Saracens wing missed England's opening QBE autumn Test through suspension - but he returns to face the Wallabies, against whom he has scored three tries in three Tests.
Ashton scored his first Test try in England's 21-20 victory in Sydney on the 2010 summer tour and he touched down twice in a record 35-18 win at Twickenham the following autumn.
The second of those efforts, finished by Ashton after England launched a counter-attack from behind their own line, has gone down in the annals as one of the great Twickenham tries.
Ashton is England's most potent attacking threat and he will consider a game against the injury-hit Wallabies as the perfect opportunity to break his international try duck for 2012.
England go into the game as favourites as they target a third consecutive victory over Australia, a run of success they have not enjoyed since winning the World Cup in 2003.
The Wallabies were on the receiving end of a 33-6 thumping in France last weekend and they head to Twickenham without the injured trio David Pocock, Kane Douglas and Pat McCabe plus the suspended Rob Simmons.
Australia coach Robbie Deans has been able to recall wing Digby Ioane, full-back Berrick Barnes and prop Ben Alexander.
Lancaster had considered making changes to all three rows of the scrum but he resisted the temptation to rush prop Alex Corbisiero back from injury.
Wasps lock Tom Palmer has retained his place in the second row with his club-mate Joe Launchbury again on the bench.
Thomas Waldrom continues at number eight and Tom Johnson starts again on the blindside, with Tom Wood once again primed to come off the bench.
Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi combine again in midfield after Jonathan Joseph, who has also just returned from injury, was released with Corbisiero to play for London Irish this weekend.
And Alex Goode will look to build on the promising creative partnership he struck up with fly-half Toby Flood in the Fiji game, offering England a second play-making option from full-back.
Lancaster said: "We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week, but we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side."
Asked about Ashton's return to the side and Sharples switching to the left wing, Lancaster said: "We're looking for a bit of what Chris Ashton delivers in matches. He chases the ball, creates line breaks, makes opportunities for others and takes them himself.
"As for Charlie, he really merits keeping his place and he is happy playing on the left wing."
Lancaster will be interested to see how Goode fares at full-back against the Wallabies after an impressive showing against Fiji.
"He's a great footballer and he provides us with extra organisation in our backline. He's a great communicator with the backs and he has the ability to move defenders around and make breaks himself," Lancaster said.
"It's a step up for him but he's playing well at the moment."
Lancaster plans to keep faith with the back row from the Fiji match so Tom Wood will begin on the replacements' bench.
"The back row played well at the weekend. Tom Wood was good when he came off the bench but we want to give them another shot this week," he explained.
On the potential for an Australia backlash after their Paris defeat, Lancaster added: "We will need to step up and our training this week has reflected that.
"The Aussies will have done a lot of work on their own performance this week after losing against the French. But the game before that they pushed the All Blacks to 18-18 and they are a very experienced side who have played some very good rugby over the last six months."
Lancaster is hoping England can triumph against the Wallabies and in subsequent clashes with South Africa and New Zealand but knows that delivering on that will not be easy.
"We want to win them all," he said, "but wanting to win is one thing and getting the nuts and bolts in place to get the win is another. We want to work on the areas that didn't go so well (against Fiji)."
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