Former Sarries star prefers France over England
NEWS: England star Chris Ashton says he is delighted to have quit the English Premiership for French Top 14 giants Toulon, escaping the negative remarks that plagued him at home.
The 30-year-old - who rounded off his Saracens career with a try against French outfit Clermont as they secured back-to-back European Champions Cup titles last season - has made a sparkling start to his stint in Toulon, topping the try-scoring chat with 13.
Ashton, whose showboating style of a swan dive when he scored tries alienated some English rugby fans, failed to regain his place in the England set-up when Eddie Jones replaced Stuart Lancaster after the 2015 World Cup debacle.
He told The Times that by being in France he was happy not to have to contend with the debate over whether he should be playing for England.
"Maybe I would have played for England again, maybe I wouldn't," he said.
"It doesn't matter. I'm glad I can forget about it.
"You play in England and there is always a group of people who think, 'He's not good enough to play for England.' Here you don't have that.
"Why be in England and be surrounded by it all the time, when I can be here and away from it all? It's what I wanted. If I do well here at Toulon, the team and the fans are more than happy,"
Ashton, who switched from rugby league to union first joining Northampton in 2007 from Wigan, has found that quirky Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal does not take defeats lightly.
Indeed he was more than surprised when after a loss away to Agen the players had to endure an overnight bus ride as punishment.
"I expected it to be different," said Ashton, who scored 19 tries in 39 Tests for England.
"Probably not as different as it is, but I like it.
"Everything is new. Sometimes it's hard not to look at where you have just come from and think, 'Maybe we should do this'.
"But I've tried not to. You have to appreciate French people and the way they do things."
Ashton, Saracens' record try-scorer with 76, says playing for Toulon is more to his liking as they play in a more free-flowing style than the rigidity he experienced at Saracens.
"In French rugby, they want to play," he said.
"From fullback, I can go every time, everywhere, which is what I did when I first came over from league to union.
"At Saracens, I had to pick when and where, but here I can get on the end of everything. This is better for me. I am happy with it."