Chris Ashton, the former England wing, wants to pass on the skills that have made him the greatest try scorer in Premiership rugby history when he finally calls time on his playing career.
Ashton has signed a one year deal with Leicester Tigers having impressed on a short term contract with the Premiership leaders and goes into Saturday’s penultimate regular season match at Newcastle having established a new Premiership try record of 95 and has his eyes on reaching a century before hanging up his much travelled boots.
Those Premiership tries have come in a career that has taken him to Northampton, Saracens, Sale, Harlequins, Worcester and now Leicester while there was also a stint with Toulon where he broke the broke the Top14 try-scoring record with 24 in 23 games in his debut season and 20 tries in 44 tests for England.
Patently, Ashton knows the way to the try line and while his “Ash Splash” try celebration has been largely mothballed, the 35-year-old still scores with the enthusiasm of a teenager. Getting the ball down over the line is a skill that Ashton believes needs to be taught and he is already thinking about how he can impart his knowledge to the next generation, which is headed by Henry Arundell, the London Irish youngster who is set to tour with England in Australia this summer.
Ashton has seen the remarkable solo try Arundell scored for Irish in their Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Toulon and said: “The thing that struck me and what I am most jealous about, was the no fear in his eyes. No consequence – he got the ball and ran. If you play in big pressure games or for England and there are consequences for your actions then as you get older you overthink situations. I would like to have some of that back sometimes – that no fear mindset. I hope it stays that way.
“I would like to spend some time with players like Arundell and Adam Radwan (Newcastle) and give them a better understanding of the situation they are in. it is a hard position to play and a lot of it is confidence based. Like a goal scorer in the Premier League you go through good and bad times and when you get to test level you are against better opposition and people expect you to go and score tries and if you overthink it then it isn’t going to work. You have to pick the right moments to shine
“I would like to help wingers and back three players find a way to become finishers – to get on the ball and score tries. It is something I have loved doing and I would like to pass that on and maybe there is a niche market for me. I love scoring tries and the feeling is no different from when I was five years old. I am happy but never satisfied which is a problem I have and I always want more.
“As you get older you understand and reflect on how and why you are putting yourself in certain situations and my time at Saracens opened my eyes to the amount of detail and seeing how things in rugby come about – being ahead of the game and I hope I can pass that on. It takes time – being instinctive and ahead of the game and being alive to it. I would like to stay involved in the game.”
Ashton has linked back up with Steve Borthwick, the Leicester head coach, who was a team mate at Saracens and had no hesitation accepting the short term contract offer mid-way through the season. “I am in a place where I feel comfortable and can help in terms of the lads coming through with my experience: “ added Ashton. “ I never gave it a second thought about coming in here on a short term contract and I am back enjoying my rugby.
“I need this environment to get the best out of me and for three months I was training on my own thinking it was all over and hoping for a corner of a door to open for me and thankfully it did. I knew I still had something to offer and that will to win every weekend was driving the missus mental.”