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Saracens fan Louise Warr argues Chris Ashton has put recent troubles behind him and is finally back to his best
It would be safe to say that Chris Ashton burst on to the Rugby Union scene in quite a spectacular fashion.
His first touch of the ball, for Northampton Saints against London Welsh in National Division One, was a try-scoring one and he ended up breaking the league’s try scoring record with an impressive 39 in only 25 appearances.
Ashton was then named Premiership Player of the Year in 2009/10, making his England debut in the same season.
It was always going to be tough to keep things going at that rate.
The Chris Ashton that joined Saracens at the start of the 2012/2013 season was a very different one.
He had left his former club Northampton under somewhat of a cloud; with training ground arguments with coach Jim Mallinder, poor form and question marks over his motivation to move all circulating.
His try-scoring had dried up for both club and country and he was receiving staunch criticism for his trademark celebration, the ‘ash splash’ with it being branded arrogant and a needless injury waiting to happen.
It would be wrong to say that signing for Saracens solved all Ashton’s problems.
A string of yellow cards saw him miss England’s first autumn international game last season against Fiji.
The tries weren’t exactly flooding in and his tackling, or lack of, on occasions had come under intense scrutiny.
Fast forward to now. Ashton has racked up three tries this campaign and is showing off the running lines and hunger off the ball he became known for.
Most pleasing though for a Saracens fan is that he is not only tackling players but he is knocking them back.
His England place is no longer looking so insecure and the smile on his face suggests he is enjoying his rugby once again.
Ashton and his teammates will now face a fortnight of huge clashes, a ‘battle of the giants’ against Toulouse at Wembley Stadium on Friday night and a clash of seismic proportions the following Saturday against fierce rivals and Ashton’s former club Northampton Saints.
Both these clashes could really define the wingers international future - these are the kind of games that really test a player's character and skill-set and I for one cannot wait to see the Ashton/North match up.
If his form continues this season in the same manner it has started, it wont be long until the 'ash splash' reappears for both club and country.
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