England return moves closer as Ashton quits Fylde role
FORMER England coach Brian Ashton has fuelled speculation he is to return to the national set-up by resigning his post with National Division One club Fylde.
Ashton quit as coaching consultant at the third-tier side yesterday, with the Lancastrian outfit saying he had other “opportunities” that he wanted to pursue.
The 65-year-old’s decision comes as England head coach Stuart Lancaster puts the finishing touches to his backroom team for this summer’s tour to South Africa.
London Irish’s Mike Catt is to join as backs coach while Ashton, who led England to the 2007 World Cup final, has also been linked with a short-term role.
“Brian is a world class rugby coach,” said Fylde head coach Mark Nelson. “We have been incredibly lucky that he has been able to commit that amount of time, expertise and energy to the club over the past
“There are numerous business commitments and opportunities that are developing for him. Of course, he will be sorely missed, but I fully understand and accept his reasons for stepping down.”
Ashton’s possible agreement to join England for the trip to face the Springboks in three Tests would be a welcome boost for Lancaster following two damaging snubs.
World Cup-winning former New Zealand coach Wayne Smith this week rejected an offer after talks with Lancaster, prompting the move for Catt, which was confirmed on Tuesday.
That came after Andy Farrell, part of the Six Nations backroom staff who helped land Lancaster the permanent job, shunned England to stay with Saracens.
Lancaster plans to name an enlarged squad of 40 for a tour that also includes midweek matches. The first Test takes place in Durban on 9 June.
Ashton’s arrival coincided with a sharp upturn in Fylde’s fortunes, the club winning promotion to the third tier by claiming the National Division Two title.
They followed that up by finishing in fourth place this term and earning the distinction of scoring more tries than any other National League team.