England v Argentina: Chris Ashton is lucky to be in the England team, says Stuart Lancaster

Injuries force coach to retain winger for Argentina match despite his lack of form

Chris Ashton suffered his share of trials and tribulations at the back end of last season: the swallow-diving wing finally admitted as much during the build-up to last week's victory over Australia, having spent much of the 2013 Six Nations pretending everything was hunky-dory. If he thinks those problems are safely behind him as a result of a bright start to the Premiership campaign with Saracens, he would be well advised to think again.

Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, confirmed that Christian Wade, the fleet-footed finisher from Wasps, had been in the original red rose line-up for Saturday's meeting with Argentina at Twickenham, and that his failure to recover from a hamstring twang suffered in training had effectively granted Ashton a stay of execution.

Wade's call-up for a home international debut had been well flagged, but the assumption had been that his selection for the contest with the Pumas, widely considered to be the softest of England's three autumn fixtures, was experimental and that Ashton was guaranteed a place against New Zealand – by some distance the hardest of the games – in eight days' time.

In reality, Ashton's long-term future in the side is under serious threat. Lancaster and his fellow England coaches were unconvinced by his contribution against the Wallabies – they held him responsible for the clean break that led to Matt Toomua's try for the tourists – and a strong display from Wade on Saturday might well have left Ashton on the outside looking in come the visit of the All Blacks. It is clear that the cross-coder from Wigan, virtually an automatic choice in the red-rose back division for the last three years, needs a big step up in performance on Saturday.

"There were one or two areas of his game last weekend that were disappointing," Lancaster remarked in unusually pointed fashion, "and we've put it on him a bit in our sessions this week. In fairness to Chris, he's trained well. But he's under some pressure and has a real point to prove. To be an international player in the wing position you need the X-factor: Chris has that ability to track the ball around the field; Christian has his footwork; Marland Yarde has power. But you need all the other things, too." It seems some of those "other things" have gone missing, particularly in the defensive sphere.

Lancaster was patently disappointed that his new cutting edge in attack – Wade on the right wing and Yarde on the left, with Mike Brown between them at full-back – had been blunted by injury before it had been unsheathed. Both Wade and Yarde, who finished last week's game with a hip problem, failed fitness tests this morning, hence the restoration of the old Ashton-Ben Foden axis, last seen in Port Elizabeth 18 months ago.

By contrast, the remodelling of the England front row has been hitch-free. Joe Marler of Harlequins, who started the autumn in the bronze medal position in the race for the loose-head berth, has a precious opportunity to improve his position on the propping podium, thanks to Mako Vunipola's knee injury and Lancaster's decision to nurse Alex Corbisiero back into international rugby rather than hurl him into it. At hooker, Dylan Hartley's promotion to the starting line-up merely reinforces the notion that both he and Tom Youngs will be World Cup-bound in 2015.

The situation on the tight-head side of the scrum is more intriguing. Dan Cole of Leicester has started every England game for which he has been available since Lancaster succeeded Martin Johnson a little over two years ago, so it would be easy to suggest that the decision to give David Wilson of Bath a run from the get-go on Saturday says more about Cole's exhausting workload than it does about his rival's credentials.

But the coach made it clear that Wilson is now holding Cole's feet to the fire. "He's made up the ground that existed between them," Lancaster said. "He's done everything we've asked of him – he's been excellent under the new scrum laws; his loose play has improved – and now's the time to give him a start. I think the word 'dropped' is too strong with regard to Dan, but we certainly feel we can trust David."

Likewise, Lancaster trusts the Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees, who did not have the best of games against the Wallabies. "I don't think he played as badly as he's been making out himself, but once we decided to stick with him for this game – and it was a pretty quick decision – I made sure I gave him some reassurance," the coach commented. "I've told him, 'Don't worry about it. Get on and enjoy it'."



Get Adobe Flash player
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor