ENGLAND winger Chris Ashton has warned World Cup defences to get used to the site of him crossing the try line after announcing his return to form with a clinical hat-trick in Saturday’s crushing 67-3 win over Romania.
Dual-code star Ashton, the jewel in England’s back division, made a blazing start to his international career but has struggled to recapture the form which saw him cap the Red Rose’s landmark victory over Australia last November with an iconic try which saw him sprint the length of the field.
The Northampton flyer underwent knee surgery in the summer and until his trio of scores in the 67-3 rout of Romania, which virtually assured England of a last eight place, he had failed to deliver on his early promise.
“I do feel I’m back on song again,” said Ashton, whose England strike rate is a remarkable 14 tries in 16 Tests.
“It does take a few weeks to get back into it, even though you deny it. It naturally takes a few games to get used to running around and being in position again.”
Saturday’s victory, by some distance England’s most convincing of the tournament, was also a personal success story for Ashton’s fellow winger Mark Cueto.
The man named ‘Conker Tree’ by Ashton and Ben Foden because he’s the oldest of England’s back three – missed the opening two games of the World Cup with a back injury – but matched Ashton’s achievement in scoring a hat-trick against the Pool B whipping boys.
While Ashton had gone five games without a try before his double against Georgia, Cueto’s record was one in his previous 25 Tests before Saturday.
“It’s good to have the old man back in the team,” Ashton said. “I’m glad he scored some tries.”
Ashton had a role in two of them before running in his own hat-trick, with two touchdowns in the first-half and the third sealing England’s 10-try victory.
“It was definitely nice to reply [to Cueto],” said Ashton. “I was getting a bit scared when he had three and I had none. I wanted a try at some point and thankfully the lads put me in for a few.”
England have, meanwhile, confirmed Leicester No8 Thomas Waldrom as their official replacement for injured prop Andrew Sheridan.