- Winger expects tough outing on Saturday opposite "best in the world"
- We have to get stuck in and be as physical as we can – Ashton
Chris Ashton is relishing the opportunity to test himself against Bryan Habana on Saturday evening in Durban and believes a confident mindset will be crucial to England’s chances of beating South Africa for the first time in eight attempts.
Named to start on his customary right wing, Ashton will win his 24th cap opposite Habana – the Springboks’ most decorated international on show with 74 Tests already under his belt.
Despite speaking with typical self-belief, England’s key try-scoring weapon was quick to heap praise on his illustrious adversary.
“[Habana] is the best in the world and has been for a long time now,” said the Saracens-bound 25 year-old. “I’ll have a lot on my plate this weekend, for sure.
“I have had experience playing against the likes of Shane Williams in the Six Nations though, so I am looking on it as another chance for me to show that I can play against the best.
“You train every day for a chance to play against these kinds of people but there is going to be plenty for me to do. He likes to come in off his wing and work off the ball and, because he has been in that team for a while, they know the way he plays really well.”
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Looking back on England’s last encounter with South Africa – a bruising match at Twickenham in November 2010 that the hosts lost 21-11
– Ashton afforded himself a rueful joke before insisting that Stuart Lancaster’s men would be hardened for battle this time round and ready to fight fire with fire.
“I don’t remember much about that day because I got knocked out,” he explained. “[Floody] was knocked out too and [Tom] Crofty did his shoulder, so there were a few injuries that day. That experience will certainly help us a lot because we can look back and know what to expect.
“They are big blokes and like to run very hard – that is how they have always liked to be known. We have to get stuck in and be as physical as we can.”
Ashton finished with a glance at Heyneke Meyer’s selection and, like Geoff Parling before him, suggested that the presence of three debutants and Super 15 distractions would not dampen a fierce South African challenge:
“They will have a lot of leaders in the team who have been there a while and know what they are doing – you could almost say that they don’t need a coach. On the other hand, we are still a new team learning together.
“We can’t be downbeat and dwelling on how we have lost the last seven [against them]. It would be stupid to come all this way and think we are already beaten. We want to stand up and be the best we can.”