Ashton puts on a show as England add style to steel
The sideshow of Chris Ashton's over-the-top 'swallow dive' celebration for his fourth try will not be top of Martin Johnson's agenda when the England squad reassemble tomorrow to prepare for their game against France at Twickenham on February 26.
The England manager, will be more concerned with correcting key details in what, for the most part, was a highly impressive performance against Italy. Ashton may not intend to disrespect the opposition but that is the effect. However, the exuberance of his antics captures the essence of the team and Johnson is not about to suppress those instincts without good reason.
England played as an All Blacks side might: with intent and belief. And, crucially, from the first whistle. There was sweep and majesty in England's approach work, an eagerness to probe for openings from any part of the field.
James Haskell deserved his try and made the initial thrust that led to Ashton's hat-trick try, while Ben Youngs and Toby Flood have chimed at half-back, and were instrumental in Ashton's first in the third minute as well as for Mark Cueto's long-awaited effort.
Shontayne Hape did some clever stuff for Ashton's second, Nick Easter likewise for Mike Tindall's score. Danny Care was lively when he came on and added a try. For all Ashton's flourishes however, the image that stays in the mind is Jonny Wilkinson's lung-busting, try-saving tackle on Andrea Masi a minute from time. This team have steel as well as soul.
England -- B Foden; C Ashton, M Tindall (capt), S Hape, M Cueto (M Banahan 49); T Flood (J Wilkinson 55), B Youngs (D Care 55); A Corbisiero, D Hartley (S Thompson 49), D Cole (D Wilson 61), L Deacon (S Shaw 45), T Palmer, T Wood (H Fourie 61), N Easter, J Haskell.
Italy -- L McLean (K Burton 78); A Masi (P Canavosio, 61-70), G Canale, A Sgarbi (G Garcia 58), M Bergamasco; L Orquera, F Semenzato; S Perugini (Castrogiovanni 63), L Ghiraldini (F Ongaro 66), M Castrogiovanni (A Lo Cicero 56), CA Del Fava (S Dellape 45), Q Geldenhuys, V Bernabo (Lo Cicero 49-55; R Barbieri 55), S Parisse (capt, Canavosio 78), A Zanni.
Ref -- C Joubert (SARU)