Sport Rugby

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Ashton out to avenge Aviva hammering

Hugh Godwin

ENGLAND'S Chris Ashton has vowed to maintain his try-scoring resurgence at Ireland's expense today and erase the memory of the team's hammering in their previous Six Nations game in Dublin two years ago.

The battle of this season's unbeaten Six Nations favourites offers the perfect stage for the winger to continue a rich vein of form after going 11 Tests without a try before he scored in England's famous win over New Zealand in December.


He scored again in the 38-18 rout of Scotland last week that kicked off the Six Nations, while Ireland won 30-22 in Wales.


But he is not getting carried away just yet with the fact that his 17 tries in 30 Tests has lifted him into his country's all-time top-10 scorers. "It is not something you concentrate on but I will take that. It is good, it is part of my job title," he said.


"I am only 25, I have been here for three years and hopefully I will be here for a lot longer. I hope to be on top of that list one day and then sit back and reflect on it – but not now."


England's record-holder, Rory Underwood, managed 49 tries in 85 appearances.


Sixteen of England's 23 players in a mostly callow squad have yet to lose a Test to Ireland but Ashton experienced the pain of the 24-8 defeat two years ago that cost his team the Grand Slam, though they still won the Championship.


The players blotted their copybook at the live TV presentation of the title trophy in a Dublin hotel that year, when captain Nick Easter admitted the squad had lifted their spirits with "a few Budweisers" while team-mates, including today's scrum-half, Ben Youngs, mugged for the cameras.


It was the latest of four straight Six Nations losses for England in the Irish capital, but they thumped Ireland 30-9 at Twickenham last year and the coach, Stuart Lancaster, has made humility a priority.


Ashton said: "There has been a change of mindset. I feel more confident; just being in a team with people who put you in the right places and give you the opportunities gives you confidence."


Today's game holds another significance as the British & Irish Lions coach, Warren Gatland, will be in the Aviva Stadium keeping tabs on the top three candidates to captain the tour to Australia this summer: Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip, and England's Chris Robshaw.

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