Ashton back in England rugby squad
LONDON (AFP) –
Chris Ashton was restored to England’s starting XV for Saturday’s Cook Cup international against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday, with the dynamic wing looking to inflict fresh woe upon the Wallabies.
Ashton’s inclusion on the right wing, with Charlie Sharples switching to the left in place of Ugo Monye, was the only change announced Thursday by coach Stuart Lancaster to the England side that beat Fiji 54-12 last week.
Saracens flyer Ashton missed that match through suspension but is back to face the Wallabies, against whom he has scored three tries in as many Tests.
The former rugby league player scored his first Test try in England’s 21-20 victory in Sydney in 2010 and crossed twice in a record 35-18 victory at Twickenham a year later that included a brilliant length of the field dash.
Meanwhile full-back Alex Goode will again try to provide creative back-up to fly-half Toby Flood.
England will be looking for their third straight win over the Wallabies, who were thrashed 33-6 by France in Paris last weekend.
At the Stade de France, the Wallabies’ familiar scrum failings, an area England have exploited to their advantage, were compounded by Australia’s uncharacteristic failure to score a try for the second Test in a row.
However, a wary Lancaster said: “We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week, but we know we need to improve this week.
“By having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side.”
Earlier on Thursday, Australia recalled right wing Digby Ioane to their side following their thumping defeat by France.
Ioane, who has missed the Wallabies last two Tests with a knee injury, replaced Pat McCabe, out with a neck problem.
Berrick Barnes is selected a full-back after coming off the bench against France in Paris last weekend while the front row was bolstered by the return from a wrist injury of experienced tighthead prop Ben Alexander.
Meanwhile Sitaleki Timani returns to the second row after missing the France match with a back problem.
Timani and Alexander replaced Kane Douglas, ruled out with a knee injury, and Sekope Kepu respectively.
Australia had hoped to recall world-class flanker David Pocock for Saturday’s match following a knee problem, only for a calf strain to rule him out of the Test instead.
The talented Michael Hooper continues at seven in his absence, with Kurtley Beale remaining at fly-half.
“We are playing an England side that has been building up under its new leadership, and will see Saturday as the chance to lay down a marker for the future,” said under-pressure Australia coach Robbie Deans.
“They will be excited by the opportunities they saw out of our performance last weekend,” the New Zealander added.
“But it goes both ways — Saturday is a significant opportunity for us as a group as well.”
Injury-hit Australia suffered further disruption when Rob Simmons was given an eight-week ban by an International Rugby Board disciplinary hearing in London on Wednesday following the lock’s “tip tackle” on France flanker Yannick Nyanga in Paris last Saturday.
Australia have yet to announce if they’ll appeal a suspension that as well as ruling Simmons out of the England match will also see him miss the remaining tour Tests against Italy (November 24) and Wales (December 1).