Ashton celebrates on his way to scoring for Saints against Newcastle

Chris Ashton will make his hundredth appearance for Northampton Saints in Sunday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Round 8 trip to London Wasps.

Ashton will hit three figures just over four years after he made his debut in the first game of the Saints’ season in National League One. That game, against London Welsh, saw the wing score with his first touch of the ball and since then he has gone on to cross the whitewash 88 times, as well as kick one conversion.

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder said that while Ashton has improved in his time at Franklin’s Gardens there was still plenty the winger could do to get better as a player.

“We’ve seen Chris develop a lot as a rugby union player over the past four years, but there is still plenty for him to learn and his 99 appearances for the Saints represent just about his entire experience in the sport,” Mallinder commented. “Chris may have scored twice last week but he will have to keep playing at the top of his game to stay in our team, as will every other player. We’ve got a lot of competition for places and players like Scott Armstrong, Paul Diggin and Jamie Elliott are all eager for Chris’s spot in the first team.”

Turning his attention to London Wasps, Mallinder also said that this weekend’s game represents a stiff challenge for the Saints.

“Adams Park is a very tough place to play, and although we won there last season it was the first time the Saints had got the points,” he added. “Wasps have started the season well and shown they can compete at the top end of the Premiership table. They have also had some excellent results against the likes of Saracens and Worcester.

“Dai Young is an experienced coach and he has got a team which combines experienced players like Hugo Southwell and Nicky Robinson with young talent such as Christian Wade and Joe Simpson. We will have to be at our best to get a positive result on Sunday. However there has been a good atmosphere in training this week and everyone is focused on this weekend’s game.”

Saints starting XV:
15 Ben Foden
14 Chris Ashton
13 Jon Clarke
12 Tom May
11 Vasily Artemyev
10 Ryan Lamb
9 Lee Dickson
1 Soane Tonga’uiha
2 Dylan Hartley (C)
3 Brian Mujati
4 Courtney Lawes
5 Mark Sorenson
6 Calum Clark
7 Phil Dowson
8 Roger Wilson

16 Mike Haywood
17 Alex Waller
18 Paul Doran Jones
19 Samu Manoa
20 Tom WOOD
21 Martin Roberts
22 Stephen Myler
23 George Pisi