Ashton’s our natural born finisher

Johnson thrilled by progress of England’s try scoring machine

ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson hailed try scoring sensation Chris Ashton as his side’s new talisman following his record-breaking exploits against Italy.

Ashton followed up his brace in England’s RBS 6 Nations victory over Wales with four more in Saturday’s crushing 59-13 win over the Azzurri.

The 23-year-old now has nine tries from his first nine internationals, a haul which must have seemed unthinkable to a player who was considering returning to his rugby league roots just 18 months ago.

But such has been his rapid rise to prominence that Johnson compared his impact to England’s only previous unqualified cross-code success story, Jason Robinson.

“We need finishers. They make the difference in games. Chris is enjoying what he does but underneath that he does work hard, he is conscientious and he wants to be a very good player. Chris is a bit different. When Jason Robinson came into the team he was different and Chris is different again.”

Ashton avoided a ticking off from Johnson after wheeling out his trademark try scoring celebration against Italy – dubbed the “Ash Splash” – but despite the showboating, his feet are firmly on the ground. Rory Underwood last week predicted Ashton will break his record of 49 England tries but the Northampton wing refuses to even consider it. “The day I start looking at records is the day I am sure I will stop scoring tries,” Ashton said. “My aim when I got in the team was to play the best I could and hopefully the tries would come from that.”

England’s other wing, Mark Cueto, made a similarly stellar start to his international career six years ago, before a dip in form saw him slide into the wilderness. Cueto is once again a fixture in the side, but has warned Ashton he can expect to become a marked man.

He said: “Teams start to target you and they will throw extra defenders. Whenever you do your analysis on the teams you come up against you pick out the threats and without a shadow of a doubt, teams will be looking at Ashy.”

HEAD-TO-HEAD | WING WONDERS
After nine tries in his first nine games, Chris Ashton is being talked of as potential England great, but he’s got a way to go before he eclipses these three wingers.

RORY UNDERWOOD: The former RAF pilot remains England’s record try scorer with 49 from 85 Tests. He’s also the most capped England back of all-time.

BEN COHEN: The nephew of England 1966 hero, George, is third on the all-time England list with 31 tries from 57 games and he won the World Cup in 2003.

JASON ROBINSON: Like Ashton, the player nicknamed Billy Whizz was a league star with Wigan. He scored 28 tries in his 51 internationals.