DEBUTANT Chris Ashton has told how he almost quit the sport six months ago after doubting whether he would ever make the grade.
The Northampton winger comes into the England Test side for the first time in Paris tomorrow as a replacement for the injured Ugo Monye.
But the former rugby league star admits he came close to hanging up his boots after initially struggling to cope with life in the Premiership.
With 19 tries in 25 matches so far this season for the Saints, Ashton is one of the brightest talents in English rugby and will have a familiar face alongside him tomorrow night in the shape of full-back Ben Foden, as the Saints pair look to bring a little extra spark to England’s back line.
But the 23-year-old explained: “I didn’t think I would get this chance. “Last year I was a bit lost in everything. I had been playing in Division One and I couldn’t stop myself scoring tries. I stepped up into the Premiership and was expecting to hit the ground running but that didn’t happen. There was a lot of pressure and I hit the floor. It shocked me a bit and knocked me back. At one point I was quite serious [about moving back to rugby league].
“We had a few friendlies at the start of this season and I still wasn’t getting picked. I thought there was no way back. For someone who expects a lot from themselves it was frustrating but [coach Paul] Grayson always said ‘stick with it, your chance will come’.
“Thinking back to it now, it probably couldn’t have worked out any better for me. I had the time to actually figure out this rugby union game and make it work.”
l England captain Steve Borthwick is expected to miss tomorrow’s clash in Paris with a knee injury.
Borthwick will be assessed just before the team leave for Paris today but is unlikely to travel. Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer stands by.