Chris Ashton was rightly slammed for biting Northampton’s Alex Waller last weekend. It was a moment of sheer recklessness, where the winger allowed the red mist come down.
Although some people were saying that there were mitigating circumstances, and that Waller shoved his forearm in Ashton’s face, I think the Saracens player was a bit lucky to get away with a 13-week ban.
He’s obviously got issues with anger and has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past, but Chris is a bloody good bloke. He’s always good fun to be around and most importantly he enjoys his rugby – Chris just has to learn how to deal with the red mist.
Chris isn’t a dirty player, but he needs to control his emotions on the field. If that means he seeks out the help of a counsellor then so be it. But when he comes back, he will have to improve himself as a person on the field.
Saracens can help in this regard. They are a club who look after the whole player, not just the rugby side. Mark McCall and everyone else at Saracens will put their arm around Chris and look out for him over the next few weeks.
It might not be known to many, but there is a wrap around care process at Saracens that not only looks out for individual rugby players, but their families and what they might want to do after their career concludes.
This process is already beginning. Chris will have already put his hand up in the dressing room and said I’ve made a mistake. From what I have heard from a few of the Saracens players this week, they’re taking the mickey out of him by trying to bite him whenever they get the chance.
All Chris can do for the next few weeks is train hard and suffer from being at the butt of his teammates’ jokes.
More importantly though, this week saw a massive lack of consistency from those who run the game. The fact that Matthieu Ugalde only received a 14-week ban for gouging Grenoble’s Armand Battle is a joke.
Ugalde had three or four goes at gouging Battle and should have been banned for a season. Players not only have a responsibility to their clubs but the game itself, and if parents are seeing professionals trying to rip each others eyeballs out, they’re not going to allow their kids play the game.
De si gentils brivistes! pic.twitter.com/uYFUHofoq5
— Le Sport Dauphinois (@SportDauphinois) September 11, 2016
It’s for that same reason I said Chris was lucky not to receive a longer suspension. Incidents such as these need to be stamped out of the game.
But the authorities in France have always been slow to take any disciplinary action against players. Yoann Huget wasn’t even cited after stamping on the face of Bordeaux’s Jandre Marais last year. It was deliberate, Huget looked at Marais and stood on him.
French rugby can be brutal, when I was playing in France back in 2010, fights similar to the one that occurred last weekend were common place. That was the French way, and they didn’t really care about what was going on elsewhere.
However, after World Rugby issued a number of directives demanding stronger sanctions, they have slowly been brought into line with the other major nations.
At the same time I think World Rugby needs to centralise all the judicial processes in order to bring some consistency to the game. You only have to look at the Owen Franks incidents a few weeks ago to find problems regarding the consistent application of the rules.
As a final note, I would like to think that this incident will not bring an end to Chris Ashton’s international career. Although the door may be closing, it’s not been slammed shut, and if Chris continues to score tries with the best team in England, he will have to remain in contention.
Chris is after all England’s best finisher, so if he warrants an opportunity then Eddie Jones should pick him. You only have to look at Dylan Hartley to see how players can turn themselves around.
I remember when Martin Johnson received a ban for kneeing Duncan McRae, but we all celebrate how great a player Johnno was.
Andy Goode, Pundit Arena
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