Ashton to join Toulon
NEWS: England wing Chris Ashton is to leave Saracens for French side Toulon at the end of the season, the English Premiership and European champions announced, in a move that could end his Test career.
A club statement said Ashton, 29, would join the Top 14 club for the 2017/18 campaign after five seasons with the London side where he became the team's leading try scorer and won two Premiership titles and a European Champions Cup.
The move appears to end Ashton's hopes of an international recall given England's refusal to select overseas-based players for Test duty save in "exceptional circumstances".
In September, Ashton - who maintained his innocence - was given a 13-week ban by England's Rugby Football Union for biting Northampton's Alex Waller.
That suspension came after Ashton blew his bid for a Six Nations recall earlier this year due to a 10-week ban for making contact with the eye/eye area of Ulster centre Luke Marshall in January.
Ashton hasn't played for England under Eddie Jones, following the Australian coach's appointment last year. But he had indicated a desire to add to his 39 Test caps,the last of which came in June 2014.
But the former Rugby League star is now on his way to join a star-studded squad at Toulon, themselves three-times European champions, whom Saracens defeated 31-23 in the first round of group matches in this season's European Champions Cup.
"We would like to thank Chris for his contribution to Saracens over the last five seasons and the role he played in helping us create some incredible memories during that period," said Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall in the club's statement.
"Chris will still have an important role to play this season and we’ll look forward to seeing him back in action after his suspension."
Ashton added: "I'd like to put on record my thanks to Mark McCall, our Chairman Nigel Wray and the whole team at Saracens for the manner in which they have dealt with my request to join Toulon next season. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Allianz Park and I have made so many special memories on and off the field.
"I have developed as a player during my time with Sarries but more importantly I have developed as a person, and I will always be indebted to the club for that.
"My focus now is helping the squad prepare for Leicester Tigers on Saturday, contribute to the side when I return to action later this year and hopefully make a few more memories together in a black and red shirt."