FORMER England international Jason Robinson believes fellow winger Chris Ashton needs to show more desire than ever to avoid losing his Test spot and missing out on a place on the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia this summer.
Ashton has scored just one try in the last two RBS Six Nations championships, having previously been in seemingly unstoppable scoring form, shooting to prominence with his trademark swallow dive before touching down each time.
The 25-year-old scored six tries in five appearances at the 2011 World Cup and was one of the first names on England coach Stuart Lancaster’s team sheet.
But England struggled to score throughout the Six Nations, running in only one try in their last four matches, leading to criticism of Ashton, and Robinson has warned he must dig deep to stay in contention for selection.
“Chris Ashton is a great player but he’s just not in form,” said Robinson, part of England’s World Cup winning squad in 2003.
“It happens to everybody. The key to regaining it is to have more hunger than ever before and to show what he is made of. To show us the player we saw when he first broke into the team.
“Only 18 months ago we were talking about should he dive when he scored. Now he’s clinging onto his shirt. He needs to get back to where he was and I think he will.”
Robinson featured for the Lions on their last tour to Australia in 2001 where he scored in the opening minutes of the first Test, a moment he describes as “unforgettable” having come before even making his first start for England.
The 38-year-old, speaking at a rugby skills coaching session for young people from the Princes Trust Fairbridge Programme, is confident the Lions can do what his team failed to and win the series and feels the team will have a strong Welsh bias.
“Before Saturday I think England’s contribution to the Lions squad would have been a few more names,” said Robinson.
“Wales have beaten us now, so we’re looking at a possible Lions majority coming from Wales. But there is still a lot of time to go.
“The 2001 series felt like the one that got away, but I’m hoping this year that will be different. The Six Nations has not made me any less optimistic.”
Veteran Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll is a leading candidate to be Lions captain.
And Robinson hopes to see him included in the squad to provide a fitting end to his career, after the 34-year-old was cited for stamping in what is likely to be his last appearance for Ireland in their defeat to Italy on Saturday.
“When you’ve had as distinguished a career as Brian O’Driscoll has there is this romantic idea of how it will end,” added Robinson. “You get the feeling it isn’t supposed to end like that. There is no room for sentiment, if he’s no good he won’t be picked. But he has plenty to offer.”
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