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Ashton rubbishes link with England
Tom Hamilton
May 3, 2012
England boss Brian Ashton watches on, England v Ireland, Six Nations, Twickenham, England, March 15, 2008
Brian Ashton has described reports linking him with England as a 'non-story' © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Brian Ashton | Mike Catt
Teams: England

Former England coach Brian Ashton has rubbished suggestions that he is set for a stunning return to the international set-up.

England boss Stuart Lancaster has recently appointed Mike Catt as his backs coach for forthcoming five-game tour of South Africa but with Ashton leaving his role as coaching consultant to National League One side Fylde on Wednesday, his name was immediately thrown into the frame as a contender for a long-term role.

Ashton coached England through the 2007 World Cup and led them to the final but claims that any notion of him being linked with a return to the national side is a "non-story".

"I haven't the faintest idea where those rumours have come from - it's the 'Lewis Carroll School of Journalism' within the British media," Ashton told ESPNscrum. "As far as I'm aware I'm continuing my ambassadorial role with Kukri and anything else that might happen would be a real bonus for me but there's nothing in the pipeline at the moment so it's a non-story."

Catt will link up with England next week on a contract that runs until June 30 and Ashton has backed him to get the backs firing having seen him utilise the attacking talents of the likes of Topsy Ojo, Delon Armitage and Sailosi Tagacakibau during his time with Irish.

"I always felt that he [Catt] was very innovative as a player and if he could take that perspective and mentality into his coaching then he would be a real boost to anyone he coached," Ashton said. "From listening to what Stuart Lancaster said at the end of the Six Nations they seemed happy with the set piece side of their game and defence but they wanted to find an extra gear or spark in attack. I think the coach they have been looking for is someone who can provide that and Catt has made his way in coaching as an attack coach and I'm sure that's what Stuart will want Mike to do in South Africa.

"I hope that England will look towards the style of rugby that London Irish have played going forward under Catt as it's a very challenging game to defend against. He has to make sure though that all the basics are in place first though so that'll be the initial job. Once that's there then they can start to look to play in a slightly different way."

While England performed perhaps above expectations during the recent Six Nations on their way to a second place finish, Lancaster and his side now face a step up in the form of the Springboks. Ashton, however, is quick to highlight that while England are still going through a transitional period, so are South Africa.

"It's a very tough place to go. We have to remember that England have had five games under Stuart Lancaster but South Africa have had none under Heyneke Meyer who's a new coach coming in. He hasn't had it plain sailing as from what I have gathered there have been a few release problems in terms of players. But it is a very tough place to go and one of the toughest places to cut your teeth as an international coach."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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