Chris Ashton is not rugby union’s answer to Mario Balotelli, nor Luis Suarez, according to Sir Clive Woodward
The Rugby World Cup-winning coach has instead compared him to Joey Barton
Woodward believes Ashton can still have a future in Test rugby
Sir Clive Woodward believes Chris Ashton is rugby union’s answer to Joey Barton, not Mario Balotelli or Luis Suarez.
Ashton was suspended yesterday for 13 weeks after he was found guilty of biting Northampton prop Alex Waller on Saturday.
Writing in his Daily Mail column on Thursday, Woodward suggested there are many similarities between the 29-year-old and controversial Rangers midfielder Barton.
“I remember having a long chat with Joey Barton once. Like Chris Ashton, who I have spoken to on a number of occasions, he can be a charming and interesting guy off the pitch and, like Ashton, I rate him as a player,” he wrote.
“At one stage I asked Barton what would happen if, when he left me and walked out into the street, some yobbos out there started shouting at him and abusing him. His answer was that he would cross the road and confront them. Never back down and all that.
“Totally wrong. He is Joey Barton and rival fans are always going to hurl verbal abuse at him. They just are. That comes with the territory.”
He added: “It’s difficult and you have to work hard to counter your instincts but, when these flare-ups happen, Ashton must somehow take himself back into that calm cocoon he enters when he is scoring tries for fun.”
Woodward, though, believes Ashton can still have a future in Test rugby, if he is able to keep his emotions in check.
“I really hope that Eddie Jones hasn’t given up on Ashton because, just like Danny Cipriani, I see a big English rugby talent right in the middle of what should be the best seasons of his career,” the Rugby World Cup-winning coach continued.
“It’s too soon to give up on Ashton but he must address this huge issue in his make-up right now.”