Chris Ashton admits Eddie Jones’ England snub hurt his confidence

Chris Ashton’s appetite to revive his England career has been sharpened by a successful debut season at Toulon that has restored the confidence he insists was damaged by Eddie Jones’ indifference.

Ashton has amassed 26 tries to overhaul the previous Top 14 individual scoring record by five after being allowed to play with the freedom he believes was curtailed at Saracens due to the dominance of their pack.

A self-confessed “Marmite” character, he will return to Twickenham on Sunday as part of the Barbarians team seeking to inflict a fourth successive defeat on England armed with the belief he can play until he is 40.

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“I went to France with an open mind and I still have an open mind,” said the 31-year-old.

“I’m enjoying it there, but I still feel good and would love to play for England again one day.

“I did feel as though the door had been shut [by Jones] and it affected my confidence. I thought ‘why didn’t he need me in there, why wouldn’t he want me in there?’

“I had to go elsewhere to prove to myself and others that I can still do it. That I can do it in a different environment, a different league and do it well.

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“The number of caps I have – 39 – annoys me. It’s a terrible number.

“The England team that I played in against Australia in 2010 are now on 50, 60, 70 caps. I like to think I was capable of getting up to that so it’s a regret that I haven’t.

“What an opportunity the Barbarians game is for me. It’s the chance to show that I’m still knocking around.

“I still feel really good and I’d like to play until I’m 40. I’ve not got many other options – I’ve been playing rugby since I was six years old, it’s all I know!

“I’m 31 and still in good condition. I even ran my fastest time the other weekend.”

Ashton accepts his own role in failing to win a cap under Jones after turning down the opportunity to tour South Africa with the Saxons in 2016 due to its proximity to the birth of his first child.

To illustrate that it might have been an opportunity missed, Danny Cipriani travelled with England’s second string and has now been rewarded by being picked for the first time by Jones for next month’s series against the Springboks, which is live on Sky Sports.

“Seeing Danny in does actually make me think. Danny definitely deserves his call-up. To be fair to him he stuck at it more than me,” Ashton said.

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“He went on the Saxons tour and he has done the hard work with Eddie and it’s good to see he has been rewarded with a chance.

“Hindsight is a beautiful thing. With the Saxons, I just think where I was mentally and sometimes it is better to take yourself out of the situation than regret something.

“Sometimes you have to play the long game with some coaches and he has done that – and fair play to him for sticking at it.”