England wing Chris Ashton, a certain starter on Friday night against Wales was one of the first players to meet the media this week as everyone trooped off to the Pennyhill Park in Bagshot to quiz him. As always the Northampton wing was confident, relaxed with a manner that shows why he has been so successful in such a short space of time. But this Friday he starts his first RBS 6 Nations campaign (he played one game in 2010 in Paris), so what does Ashton think of what is expected to be a massive Friday night?
Are you fit for Wales?
Chris Ashton: “Yes I am. I probably shouldn’t have played in the last game (v Leicester) but you don’t want to miss games like that. Unfortunately losing to Leicester.
“But it was two weeks from then and I trained all week in Portugal, so I’m fine now.”
Ever a chance of you missing this game?
“No. I was aiming for Castres v Northampton game but if I’d pushed it I would have done it again. But it was a two-week injury, a little quad strain. I’m fine.”
“No, but we got a lot of training in last week running at stuff. That does get you up to speed. Nick Johnson at Northampton tends to put you through your paces as well so I’d like to think I was up to speed. If not then we’ll find out on Friday.”
Nights like Friday that made you cross codes?
“Yeah, it was a massive part of it definitely. This doesn’t happen in rugby league. You don’t get these part of games so it was a massive part of it.
“It’s massively exciting, I can’t wait. It’s hard to say what it means until I get on the field and start experiencing it.
“But listening to what Johnno says, and I played there down at Wigan once so I know what’s it’s like, but I’m sure it will completely different when its full of Welsh people all screaming.
“I’m just so excited about the prospect.”
Match up with Shane Williams….
“He’s been the main Wales player for a while now and I will be absolutely honoured to play against him on Friday night. I’ll give him the ultimate respect but I also need to get the better of him to play well for England.
“He’s played 76 games and scored 50 odd tries, I don’t know of many wingers who’ve done better than that. I’m looking forward to playing against him.”
Similarities between you?
“I’ve only just thought about it so it is accidental. But he does play the game the way I like to play it. He’s all over the pitch and hopefully I can stop him from doing that.”
Beaten him in the IRB try of year award? See the voting and try here
“It is good to beat a player of his calibre but I’m not concentrating too much on the try of the year award. I’d rather get a try over him on Friday night.”
Should you have come off against South Africa?
“Yeah but when you’re playing for England you don’t want to come off. They thought I was fine and I was putting a very good act up. I was saying I wanted to stay on but watching it back I wasn’t 100 per cent and sometimes I was a bit lost on the pitch. Maybe they were thinking I would come back around but I don’t think I did. I don’t really remember that much.”
Got to be taken out of your hands hasn’t it when you have a head injury?
“Of course, but it’s a hard thing to judge. If I’m saying ‘I’m fine I want to stay on’. What else can they do? They can’t see an injury, they can’t see anything wrong with me. I might have been a bit slower than normal but I was still out there trying to look the part so it’s a hard thing for them. Unless you’re knocked out completely it’s a hard thing to judge.”
Should we have a Concussion bin?
“Yeah but how many times does that happen? It’s not very often. They’re trying to say it’s happening a bit more often but a lot of players are able to carry on and get through it. It’s just a bit unfortunate I’m not one of those. You might say I’m a bit soft.”
Regret not coming off?
“People start thinking ‘he wasn’t there’ but I know I wasn’t 100 per cent. Speaking to the coaches after the game, I don’t think anything would affect that.”
Shaun Edwards a schoolboy hero of yours?
“I used to watch him quite a lot at Central Park. He used to just chase up the park and score about 10 tries a game. I was quite young then when he was playing, I was more bothered with people like Jason Robinson. But I do remember him being there when they were winning all those trophies, but it’s quite hard to remember what he was actually like.”
Make or break for both sides?
“I don’t know in terms of going on to win the tournament because there’s a lot more teams in the competition. But getting a good start…which we didn’t do in the autumn when we let ourselves down against New Zealand and we don’t want to do that again. We don’t want a slow start and this is the perfect chance and place to get going.”
Would Gatland’s jibes (against Hartley) have revved you up more?
“I don’t know. I think Dylan’s gone through stuff in the past so he knows what it’s like. He’s only young but he takes things in his stride. He’s captain of Northampton and he’s theNo1 hooker in England so I don’t think it will phase him at all. I hope not. I think he’ll keep his cool. He’s a changed player. You can see from when he first came to Northampton to what he is now, he’s a completely different person. I don’t think it will bother him in the slightest. If not it will help him play even better.”
Could there be bad blood from Blues v Northampton game and spill over this Friday?
“They were two hard games. That’s what you get when you play a team like Cardiff. I don’t know, that’s gone now. I’d like to think when a game is finished the game is finished. This week it’s Wales v England so there’s enough bad blood there for it to spark over anyway. It depends how the game starts and who starts to get on top. It will depend a lot on that.”
Can you keep being adventurous as a team?
“That’s how we want to play and the style of rugby we want to play. I think we can. Against South Africa we may have had to change that up during the game and may have got a bit caught out by not doing that. So you have to read that during the game and if it’s going the right way you keep moving the ball around. There’s a lot of things that affect that but the way we want to play is to move the ball around and score tries.”
Comfortable with scoring that try or wish it had come later in career?
“It might have been a bit too soon. But that happens with a lot of players when expectation comes quite quickly but no, it’s not something I’m thinking about to be honest. I just want to concentrate on being the best player in my position. Tries like that may come on the odd (he actually said ‘off’) day. Hopefully one more will come on Friday.”
Have you watched it back on Youtube?
Northampton style in Six Nations?
“No, you go away from being at your club and we’re trying to make this a club atmosphere here with England. You try and spilt the two things up. It’s just a completely different game and different team.”