Ashton wants to repair reputation
Usually the life and soul of the party, Chris Ashton cut a chastened figure as he outlined his determination to win back the hearts of the English rugby public during England's RBS 6 Nations title defence.
Ashton began 2011 as the poster boy of the English game and he equalled the championship try-scoring record as Martin Johnson's men won their first Six Nations title in eight years. But Ashton's fall from grace mirrored that of the England team, who returned from the World Cup with the players' pride, passion and commitment to the red rose all in question.
"I am disappointed in the way I've been perceived," said Ashton, who admitted the last six months had left him bruised.
Ashton was criticised for his off-field antics in New Zealand. He then released an unfortunately-timed diary of his World Cup year and got himself banned for pulling Alesana Tuilagi by the hair.
The 24-year-old's appearance alongside Noel Gallagher on Soccer AM focused more on the "dwarf-throwing" and his disciplinary issues than his try-scoring ability. Earlier this month, Ashton's decision to leave Northampton for Saracens, one of the richest clubs in the Aviva Premiership, led to a training ground disagreement with Saints boss Jim Mallinder.
Ashton knows how he is perceived - the swallow-dive that had represented his natural exuberance was now being seen as an indication of his arrogance - and it hurts. But as England prepare to open their campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield next Saturday, Ashton is determined to prove the critics wrong and rebuild his reputation on the field.
"I have taken a lot of stick," he said. "With the dive and the book, maybe it came across to people that I'm just trying to make money out of everything that's moving. That was not my intention.
"There are a lot of things (I would have done differently). The big thing for me is people's perception of me now. That's what I would try to change, definitely. At the time it's hard because you don't think you're doing anything.
"The dive was just something I did to celebrate scoring a try, it wasn't something where I thought 'I'll do this to make some money out of it'. I do look at it now and I realise there is a time and a place for it.
"Sometimes in the World Cup I got carried away with the moment. We weren't playing too well and it probably wasn't the best time to be doing it, I agree with that. But for people to say to me, 'it's all about ego' - I'm part of this team and I want it to do well. I can make amends for some of it and that is a motivation for me, going into this first game of the Six Nations."