Ashton defends England discipline
September 18, 2011
Ashton returned to try-scoring form with two against Georgia © Getty Images
Chris Ashton insisted there was no link to be made between England's lack of discipline on the field and their recent issues off it.
Ashton was one of the England group to be found drinking in Queenstown's Altitude Bar last Sunday night, which was hosting a dwarf-racing competition as part of its 'Mad Midget Weekender'. The fall-out from that evening led some to question whether there was a lack of sensible decision-making from professional players at a Rugby World Cup.
England's on-field discipline was poor again today too. They conceded 11 penalties against Argentina last week and another 14 against Georgia. Asked whether there was any link, Ashton said: "No. Refs are being a lot tighter now on a lot of things. I've never seen so many offsides. We have to be a lot smarter.
"You can't relate it to what happened during the week though - because nothing happened. We had a night out and that was it. We relaxed like every other team. So no, I don't think it had anything to do with it."
Martin Johnson's men will have to stamp out those penalties if they are to stand any hope of reaching the later stages of the competition.
"Georgia are a good side and if you give them the chance they're going to threaten you. We played into their hands sometimes," said Ashton. "You can't afford to do that against Australia and New Zealand. There are some aspects we need to tighten and in particular we need to stop giving so many penalties away.
"It's hard to see from where I am exactly what's going on but a lot of them seem to have been offside. Refs are going nuts over the offside rule all of a sudden. Just putting hands in the ruck, we don't need to do it. Our defence is good, our defence is solid. We need to back our defence."
Ashton felt England's performance was an improvement on their display against Argentina but insisted they can still make significant strides.
"I think there's a least 50% more to come from us. We can cut out the penalties and cut out all the turnovers. There's at least 50% more to come from us," he said.
Ashton took great delight in ending a mini-try drought. Having scored nine in his first nine Tests, Ashton had gone five without a try until today. The Northampton wing streaked clear for his first, which he scored with a trademark swallow dive, and then dotted down for the second from close range.
"I don't know if the management are too happy about the dive. It might not have been at the right time because the game was a bit messy," said Ashton. "There are other things to concentrate on though. But definitely I'm glad to get that try and even more to get a second."
Ashton took a blow to the elbow as he scored the second but he is confident of being given the all-clear.
"My arm got a bit hyper-extended when the guy came through on the opposite side," said Ashton. "I don't think it was a cheap shot. He was just trying to stop the try. It's fine but a bit sore."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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