Chris Ashton puts his return to the England squad down to the season he played for French giants Toulon where he rediscovered his zest and desire to play Test rugby again he told The Daily Mail.
The 31-year-old wing — who is still the leading England try scorer amongst those in the squad for the November Tests despite a four year hiatus — told the newspaper it is like he is joining up with the squad for the first time.
Ashton — scorer of 19 tries in 39 Tests — looked to have turned his back on England when he signed for Toulon for last season but a successful campaign on a personal level sparked a renewed passion to play for his national side again.
“I feel like it’s my first time again,” he told the newspaper at the England training camp in Portugal.
“It (the season with Toulon) really refreshed me and helped me restore some confidence.
“It also made me feel that I wanted to come back and play for England again.
“I’ve missed being involved in Test match rugby.
“I was watching England play so well and wanted to be part of that.”
Ashton, who excites vastly differing opinions because of a poor disciplinary record and a flashy manner in diving for his tries, made the best possible debut for his new club Sale Sharks last weekend scoring a hat-trick of tries.
However, it was a debut delayed because of yet another suspension — seven weeks for a tip-tackle in a pre-season game and left him fearing Jones would overlook him.
“I was just embarrassed really,” said Ashton.
“I was desperate to start the season well, then that happened.
“Thankfully he (Jones) was good with me all the way through, seeing how I was doing.
“It was nice to have that support from him and to be involved in the camps, too.”
Ashton, who made his name first in rugby league with Wigan Warriors and won four England caps, is desperate to move on to the 40 cap mark not just as recognition of his form but also the last Test he played was a 36-13 battering by the All Blacks in New Zealand in June 2014.
“We got a battering,” he said.
“I’ve tried to forget it. I’d never be happy to finish with that as my last cap for England.
“I’d like to move on to another one.”
Ashton provided he stays injury-free during the training camp will have four chances in November.
England begin against South Africa next Saturday and follow that with hosting world champions the All Blacks, and two of Jones’s former sides, Japan and Australia.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)