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Saracens wrap up Ashton deal

Saracens have announced the signing of England wing Chris Ashton on "a long-term contract".

Ashton will move to the reigning English champions from their Aviva Premiership rivals Northampton for the start of next season.

It ends weeks of speculation surrounding Ashton's future. He joined Northampton from Wigan rugby league club and featured in England's failed World Cup campaign last autumn.

A club spokesman said: "We are obviously especially delighted, but for now, Chris remains a Northampton player. Out of respect for Saints, Saracens will not make any further comment on the matter."

There is speculation that Ashton will be left out of the Northampton side for their Heineken Cup clash against Munster in Milton Keynes tomorrow. It has been reported that the 24-year-old's relationship with Saints boss Jim Mallinder has deteriorated.

Ashton, who only recently returned to action following a four-week suspension, played against the Scarlets last weekend and he is expected to retain his England place in their Six Nations opener at Murrayfield on February 4.

Northampton flanker Tom Wood, one of the candidates to become the new England captain, has been ruled out of tomorrow's Heineken Cup clash with Munster and will also miss the opening two games of the Six Nations.

The English RFU said yesterday that 25-year-old Wood has to wear a protective left boot for four weeks because of the injury to his big toe.

He will miss games against Scotland and Italy.

Munster's short-term signing Will Chambers is to join Melbourne Storm and resume his rugby league career on Tuesday after reputedly spurning the offer of a lucrative long-term deal with the province.

Chambers will play for Munster 'A' this evening against Ulster in the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup at Ravenhill. He will then travel with Munster 'A' skipper Billy Holland to Milton Keynes as cover for the Northampton clash.

Munster drafted in Chambers in October for three months after their search for an international centre, following Sam Tuitupou's departure at the end of last season, failed to turn up a suitable candidate.

The 23-year-old has played eight senior games for the Reds, three of them off the bench.

Irish Independent