'Hot-headed' Ashton prepares to take out frustration on Wallabies

England back returns to side after missing Fiji match and says sitting it out was hard to take

Sixty minutes of one-sided rugby was just about all Fijian flesh and blood could stand at Twickenham last weekend, but the outclassed tourists from the South Seas were not the only ones who felt they could take no more as Charlie Sharples stretched England's lead to 42-5 with a quarter of the game left to play. Chris Ashton, the man forced to make way for Sharples after another of his regular brushes with the disciplinary class, had also seen enough.

"I was so frustrated, I just couldn't watch any longer," he said yesterday, revealing how he left his seat in the West Stand, headed swiftly for the car park, jumped behind the wheel and drove home to St Albans. "Don't get me wrong: I was pleased for Charlie," he continued. "But just sitting there watching tries being scored and not being involved… it had been a tough two weeks for me and I'd had my fill."

Tomorrow, there is potential for more frustration, albeit of a different kind, when the Wallabies come knocking on the red-rose door. Ashton has not scored an international try in nine games – the last time he celebrated a crossing of the opposition whitewash was in the World Cup pool game against Scotland in Auckland more than 13 months ago – and while he is happy enough to be back in England's starting line-up, the drought has left him feeling seriously parched.

"I'm not quite at the Mark Cueto stage, who was in a really bad place for a while," the Saracens back said with a malevolent grin, referring to a fellow England wing who also found tries hard to come by and failed to see the funny side of it – especially as Ashton was scoring for fun at the time and took great delight in mentioning it to his colleague at every opportunity. "I do think about it, though, and it's beginning to kill me."

Ashton's recall for the meeting with Australia was easy to foresee, even while he was serving his one-match "totting up" ban for a series of illegal challenges during his early-season Premiership appearances for Saracens. Stuart Lancaster, the head coach, would have needed a very good reason to ignore the best finisher in the country, despite his temperamental foibles and failures of self-control – especially with the Wallabies in town. Ashton ran in his first Test try against Australia in Sydney in 2010, and his most memorable Test try against the same opposition at Twickenham later that year.

"That score is still a big focus for people," he said, recalling the joyous length-of-the-field romp that contributed handsomely to his side's 35-18 victory. "But they don't come along too often, tries like that, and I have a feeling things won't happen that way for me this weekend. There are similarities between the two games, however. We were quite a young side in 2010 and played with a 'no fear' mentality. It's the same this time. A lot of players are still in single figures when it comes to caps."

Lancaster is well aware of that fact: in confirming his largely unchanged line-up yesterday, he made a number of references to the hundreds of caps' worth of Test know-how that will underpin the Wallaby challenge. The coach needs his more battle-scarred foot soldiers – outside-half Toby Flood, prop Dan Cole, lock Tom Palmer and Ashton himself – to bring the best of themselves to this contest, especially when it comes to making correct decisions at important moments.

"We're working very hard on discipline," Lancaster said. "We don't want to be giving away cheap penalties, still less losing players to yellow cards." If he was thinking specifically of the scrum-half Danny Care's entirely avoidable trip to the sin-bin during the Fiji match, he was also aiming his comments at Ashton, who has proved alarmingly adept at putting himself on the wrong side of referees.

"Last week was a tough lesson for Chris," the coach went on. "You don't want to give away your international shirt, to give another player an opportunity. Part of his problem has been technical and part of it has been down to hot-headedness. His great strength is his competitive instinct: he's a winner and there are times when frustration kicks in. He needs to channel that frustration into positive action. It's a pretty simple message, but it is the message."

Whether or not Ashton takes it on board remains to be seen: he describes himself as "a lot older but not more sensible" when pressed on the question of his maturity, and the imminent confrontation with the high-calibre Wallaby back Digby Ioane, whose dismissive comments about England's "pretty" wings have been well reported recently, will reveal much about his current temperamental condition.

This much is clear: Ashton revels in his status as a top-class international wing and cannot bear the thought of being on the outside looking in. His character dictates that he must learn his lessons the hard way, but learn them he will. Either that, or Lancaster will look to more reliable alternatives and make no apology for doing so. The coach's cruel-to-be-kind handling of the errant Care has paid dividends, despite last weekend's visit to the cooler, and he will not hesitate to put his best wing through the same purgatory if he considers it necessary. If Ashton is back in the side for now, only he can ensure it stays that way.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most