Saracens winger Chris Ashton has been dropped from the England squad ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener against France.

Ashton has been in good form for his club this season, scoring four tries in eight Premiership appearances for the Men in Black.

But the 26-year-old's place in the international set-up has become less and less secure after England boss Stuart Lancaster was reportedly disappointed with Ashton's displays in the autumn internationals.

Lancaster has opted for youth with uncapped wingers Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson both called up alongside Gloucester's Jonny May but the England boss claims Ashton is still in his plans.

"We have been pleased with the form of Chris Ashton recently," he told reporters.

"However, Jack Nowell has made great progress on the right wing and has also delivered in big games for Exeter Chiefs and we feel it is the right time to look at another option in that position.

"Chris remains an important member of the squad and I am sure he will be working hard to regain that position during the course of the Six Nations."

Ashton told the Times Series in November that criticism of his performances had taken "some of the shine off playing for England".

There were five Saracens players included in the squad as Billy and Mako Vunipola both made it as well as Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell and Alex Goode.