I still believe I can play for England – Ashton

Toulon winger Chris Ashton says he has not given up yet on his England career, and has vowed to make an impression for the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, who broke the Top 14 try-scoring record this season, has not played for his country under current coach Eddie Jones.

The former Saracens player won his last England cap in 2014, and is unavailable for selection while playing in France.

“In my head England has never gone away,” Ashton told Rugby Union Weekly.

“I’m always looking to prove people wrong. I would like to think I still could do it.”

  • Pod on Tour: With Chris Ashton and the Barbarians

Ashton scored 19 tries in 39 Tests between 2010 and 2014 for England, but was dropped before the 2015 World Cup.

Jones recalled the back to the England set-up at the start of 2016, before a 10-week suspension ruled him out of the Six Nations.

He then missed out on England’s tour of Australia in the summer of 2016, an omission which still lingers, and was banned for 13 weeks in September 2016 for biting.

“The bans changed the course of my career,” Ashton said.

“At times I thought I was very close to getting back in, and I would like to think if I had I would have changed Eddie Jones’ opinion of me. But that opportunity just didn’t come, for whatever reason.

“I am in the situation I am now, but I felt I gave it my best even before I went [to France]. The one that sticks with me is the summer tour to Australia.

“I had just got man of the match in the Premiership semi-final and we had just won the European Cup.

“Eddie calls and I have a missed call on my phone. I thought ‘I’ll ring him back in a minute and he’ll tell me I’m going.’ I rang him back and he said ‘you’re not going’.

“Obviously Eddie is at the highest level, he’s the coach, and if he’s not on your side anything else is irrelevant.

“I was just desperate to get in there and change his mind, which I’m still convinced I could do. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t think I could still [play for England].”

Barbarians game a ‘great opportunity’

Ashton is part of a star-laden Barbarians squad for Sunday’s match with England at Twickenham, and the former Wigan rugby league player hopes to make the most of his return to the home of English rugby.

“I’m looking for ways to keep the lads sober this week!” he added.

“It’s such a good opportunity for me, it’s the closest I’m going to get to playing for England right now.

“So I’ll take it with both hands.”

Listen to the full interview with Ashton on the latest Rugby Union Weekly podcast: On tour with Chris Ashton and the Barbarians here.

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