Ashton backs Edwards for England role
November 6, 2011
Shaun Edwards' contract with Wales expired after the World Cup © Getty Images
As a schoolboy in his home town of Wigan, Ashton used to watch and admire Edwards, the most decorated rugby league player of his generation, scoring tries and lifting trophies for Wigan rugby league club.
Now Ashton, the World Cup's joint-top try scorer with six touchdowns despite England's exit at the quarter-final stage, reckons the former Wasps coach could be the man to help England manager Martin Johnson to World Cup glory in four years' time.
Ashton said: "I think he (Edwards) would do really well. He's got all the right accreditation to do that job. It will be interesting to see what happens. He's always been a successful coach wherever he has been. He's always done well. Even as a player he was unbelievably successful. I think he has got success written all over him and he knows exactly what you need."
Ashton is quick to point out that Johnson should remain as England manager despite a World Cup during which England's players made more headlines off the pitch than they did on it. But the England wing, famous for his swallow-dive celebrations, insists Johnson needs more support from the top of the Rugby Football Union which is in a state of disarray, with acting chief executive Martyn Thomas set to depart the organisation.
When asked if Johnson remained the right man for the job, Ashton said: "Without doubt in my mind, the perfect man. He's not had too long in that role.
"Now's the time to clear it all, try to change it at the top. It's hard for him (Johnson) having no one to help him out right at the top end (of the RFU). No one to relate back to, no one setting any structure out. He's literally a one-man band at the minute and has had the weight on his head.
"It's a mess at the top. There is no structure there leading it and supporting you and that's what you need."
Ashton, 24, insists that he worked well with current England coaches such as Brian Smith and Mike Ford but a shake-up of the coaching structure is likely and the possibility of working with Edwards, who helped coach Wales to the World Cup semi-finals, was attractive.
Ashton, speaking as he promoted 'Splashdown', the book of his World Cup year, said: "I'm not the one who could say he is the right man for the job or he isn't. I think he's a good coach. As a player I'm more bothered about being part of it and that they put the right man in place.
"I like the people who are there at the minute. I get on well with them and they are good coaches. They have had a tough time of late, but as a coach I would like to work with Shaun Edwards at some point. I'd like to think that might happen in the future."
Ashton revealed the pain of England's early exit in New Zealand was slowly dissipating as he returned to training with his club Northampton. Yet he is still haunted by what he believes was a squandered opportunity to make history.
"I felt slightly embarrassed that we'd worked so hard to get to that point and we'd just let ourselves down, let everyone down, especially when we had so much talent in the team," he said. "We could have gone all the way, there is no doubt about that."
Now he hopes the young guns of 2011, such as Manu Tuilagi, Ben Foden, Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and himself, can become the experienced hands who can lead a new generation of youngsters to glory in 2015.
Could England win the Webb Ellis trophy on home soil? "Without doubt," said Ashton. "The players we've got and those coming through are all leading the teams in the Premiership. They are the main core. If they can win in that league week in and week out and win in the Six Nations it is all good experience to build for the future. 2015 will be the perfect opportunity for us. We will all be the right age.
"We'll be the experienced players at that time and can help the young players coming through. We'll have the right combination."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter