Ashton warned over discipline as Lancaster tackles problem

England head Coach Stuart Lancaster during the training session Pennyhill Park, Bagshot
England head Coach Stuart Lancaster during the training session Pennyhill Park, Bagshot
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Stuart Lancaster has urged Chris Ashton to channel his frustrations into benefitting England as he makes his return against Australia tomorrow.

The flying winger tormented the Wallabies two years ago when he scored one of the most memorable tries in recent Twickenham history on a rare positive day for Martin Johnson.

Lancaster has brought Ashton back into the team for the second international of the autumn as his one change to the side that thumped Fiji.

The three yellow cards Ashton accrued on Saracens duty meant he had to watch that try-fest from the stands and admitted afterwards that he left the game after an hour and drove home.

Lancaster said: “You never want to give your international shirt away and it has been a tough lesson for Chris.

“He has done plenty of work on his tackling technique and we have made sure he controls his competitive instincts in the right way.

“We want to make sure we are good in those collisions, that we are disciplined and don’t give points away or lose players from the field.

“Chris has been part of that and understands that. One of Chris’s greatest strengths is his competitive instinct.

“Sometimes he can get a bit frustrated and he has to channel that frustration and put it into positive action.

“That is the message.”

That will be Ashton’s aim this weekend as England bid for a third consecutive victory over Australia.

If Ashton could have picked any opponents to return against it would be the Wallabies, given his record of three tries in three Tests against them.

Ashton scored his first Test try in England’s 21-20 victory in Sydney on the 2010 summer tour and touched down twice in a record 35-18 win at Twickenham the following autumn.

The second of those efforts, finished by Ashton after England launched a counter-attack from behind their own line, has gone down in the annals as one of the great tries at England’s rugby headquarters.

Only four of England’s starting XV survive from the 35-18 triumph, but Lancaster insists the same attacking mentality still exists.

And should the opportunity arise again, Lancaster has given his team license to attack from behind their own line.

“Absolutely, of course,” said Lancaster.

“While not all our execution was there last week our mentality and our intent to play was there and I don’t see that changing.

“The players have a license to go if they feel it is on.”

For his part, Ashton has revealed that he was so frustrated at having to watch England run seven tries past the Pacific islanders last week that he left early and headed home.

Ashton hit the road to St Albans just minutes after Charlie Sharples, his replacement on the right wing, scored his second try as England raced to a record 54-12 victory.

It would have been the perfect game for Ashton to end his try famine as well.

The former rugby league star has scored 15 tries in 26 Tests but has not touched down for England since the World Cup pool match against Scotland nine appearances, 13 months and one coaching regime ago.

“It was so frustrating that I had to leave after 60 minutes. I couldn’t watch it any more,” said Ashton.

“I was pleased for Charlie scoring some tries but it was frustrating in general to see so many tries being scored and not being able to be involved.

“It’s killing me not scoring for England.

“It has been a tough two weeks with England when you are not allowed to play. I am glad that is over and to be back involved.”

Ashton’s ban came with a warning from Judge Jeff Blackett (RFU disciplinary chief) to improve his tackling technique after his three yellow cards for dangerous play.

“I think it was something I let slip a bit with changing clubs,” said former Northampton Saint Ashton. “Other things tend to take your concentration away and you focus on other areas.

“Tackling with no arms was what we did as a child and growing up (in rugby league) and so sometimes you revert back to that.”

The three incidents were as much about Ashton’s hot-headedness as his technique, although both have been addressed by England over the past fortnight.

Ashton has been doing one-on-one tackling drills with Thomas Waldrom and James Haskell – “I have been getting smashed,” he added – and extra work after training with Andy Farrell.

Sharples has been switched to the left wing to accommodate Ashton’s return, with Lancaster opting against making any other changes from the Fiji game.

England are favourites against an injury-hit Australia side, who were beaten 33-6 by France last week.

“Australia are a quality team and we know what reaction will come this week. We will need to be on our mettle,” added Lancaster.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has had to brush aside comments by David Campese that he has “destroyed Australian rugby,” but admitted he understands criticism of his regime.

Embattled Australia coach Deans is under intense scrutiny due to a roller-coaster season that reached its nadir with last weekend’s defeat in Paris.

“The criticism is fair under the circumstances. We’re not happy with our performance either, so it’s understandable,” said Deans. “People are entitled to their opinion. It’s part of the territory.

“It’s great that David’s passionate about the game.

“This year has been an extraordinary year. There’s been a lot of adversity and some challenges to overcome. Along the way the side has shown its character but last weekend we didn’t. France was a performance we weren’t proud of and we want to address it.”