Ashton warned over discipline
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has warned Chris Ashton about his discipline after the Saracens wing was suspended from the opening QBE autumn international against Fiji.
Ashton was banned for a week after accruing three yellow cards in the Aviva Premiership this season, all of them for dangerous tackles or off-the-ball charges. In passing judgment, the Rugby Football Union's disciplinary chief Judge Jeff Blackett instructed Ashton to work on his tackling technique, but the incidents showed ill-discipline as well as poor execution.
"I have had a chat with him about both areas," Lancaster said. "One of Chris's real strengths is his competitive nature. It is tempering that to make sure we get the best out of him and, alongside that, work on his tackle technique."
Lancaster added: "He is more disappointed than anyone that he is not available. He has to deal with it and put that frustration to bed and work on those two areas to make sure he is ready for next week."
Ashton will come back into the equation to face Australia at Twickenham on November 17 but England must go into the Fiji game without their most potent try-scoring threat. The dual-code international has touched down 15 times in his 26 England Tests, although he has not crossed the whitewash since Lancaster took charge.
Ben Foden is the only wing to have done so, and while Lancaster would relish having more out-and-out finishers at his disposal, he is not concerned that Ashton's absence will leave England impotent against Fiji.
England are primed to go into battle on Saturday with Ugo Monye and Charlie Sharples on the wing and Alex Goode offering a ball-playing presence from full-back.
The injury-enforced absence of Jonathan Joseph leaves England with a likely midfield of Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt, playing outside the probable half-back combination of Toby Flood and Danny Care.
"You cannot just manufacture finishers. They come through the Premiership and we aim to pick them from there," Lancaster said. "There aren't many world class finishers around anywhere. We think we have two (Ashton and Foden) but they are unavailable."
He added: "The spark doesn't have to be on the wing. Danny Care, Ben Youngs, Alex Goode, Toby Flood, Owen Farrell - there are lots of playmakers in our team, people who can change the course of a game."