Ashton laughs off kit row as Johnson axes Worsley and Strettle from squad

ENGLAND wing Chris Ashton has defended the team’s New Zealand-baiting black away kit, insisting players don’t care what colour they wear.

Martin Johnson’s men will debut the controversial change strip, which has riled the likes of All Black great Jonah Lomu, against Wales on Saturday.

Ashton (far right) said: “You are more worried about playing for your country than what colour kit you’re wearing. If we played in pyjamas it wouldn’t bother me.”

The kit may be World Cup-bound, but five players look to have missed out after Johnson trimmed his squad to 40. Wasps forward Joe Worsley, a 2003 World Cup winner, and Saracens wing David Strettle were the biggest casualties.

Gloucester back James Simpson-Daniel and Leicester pair George Chuter and Thomas Waldrom were also axed.

But Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi and Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples are still in contention for the final 30-man party.

Forwards D Cole, A Corbisiero, P Doran-Jones, T Payne, A Sheridan, M Stevens, D Wilson, D Hartley, L Mears, S Thompson, M Botha, L Deacon, C Lawes, T Palmer, S Shaw, T Croft, N Easter, H Fourie, J Haskell, L Moody, C Robshaw, T Wood

Backs D Armitage, B Foden, C Ashton, M Cueto, U Monye, C Sharples, M Banahan, R Flutey, S Hape, M Tindall, M Tuilagi, T Flood, C Hodgson, J Wilkinson, D Care, J Simpson, R Wigglesworth, B Youngs

Pre-World Cup fixtures Wales (H), 6 August; Wales (A), 13 August; Ireland (A), 27 August