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McCall amazed by exceptional Ashton

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed "exceptional" Chris Ashton as Bath were blown away 31-17 in their Aviva Premiership match at Allianz Park.

Ashton failed to breach the whitewash - fellow England wing David Strettle scored twice - but he was highly influential with his running off the ball and support work.

The 26-year-old is fighting for his Test place and McCall has seen enough in three matches this season to know he should be involved against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand this autumn.

"Chris judges himself purely on whether he scores a try or not, but for the last two weeks he's been exceptional," McCall said.

"He's taken a lot of stick over the last 12 months or so for various aspects of his game but he was brilliant against Bath.

"One thing he's brilliant at is scoring tries and that will happen, but his work on the ball, his collisions and his kick chase were at an international level.

"It was a wonderful tackle on George Ford near the end, but the way he did things that aren't that sexy was important as well.

"David Strettle is 4-1 up in tries after three games, but Chris was exceptional. He's hungry to get better."

Alex Goode - making his comeback from shoulder surgery - and Matt Stevens also crossed as Saracens raced into a 31-3 half-time lead that effectively secured a third successive bonus-point win.

The London club are four points clear at the Premiership summit and have now scored 13 tries.

"Our attacking system is different, we made a big change in the summer," McCall added.

"We had a system that was in place for three years that we felt in the summer was handicapping some of the players we have.

"We were looking for something which got our good ball carriers on the ball more often. It's much more flexible.

"It's a work in progress, we're nowhere near where we want to be with it, but you can see often Schalk Brits and the two Vunipolas got their hands on the ball."

Bath made six changes to the side that defeated Leicester, among them dropping fly-half George Ford to the bench, but head coach Mike Ford denied they had expected to lose at Allianz Park.

"You have to be deep inside our camp to understand what we're trying to do. There was a plan behind it. You don't throw any game," Ford said.

"It wasn't great. We were blown away in the first half, Saracens squeezed us really well and we compounded one or two things. They played really well."


From Belfast Telegraph