- Ashton prepared for aerial bombardment against All Blacks
- Saracens wing inspired by England's rich rugby history
England wing Chris Ashton is ready to defuse New Zealand’s dangerous kicking game at Twickenham on Saturday and set Stuart Lancaster’s side on course for a second successive win over the All Blacks.
The All Blacks may be renowned for their ruthless running rugby, but they have been more than willing to utilize the astute tactical kicking of Dan Carter and Aaron Smith in recent games. Their ability to chase, pressurise and turnover ball has played a key role in them securing 12 straight victories since their defeat to England last December.
Ashton, though, is prepared for a potential onslaught of high balls and optimistic England can cope with all of the many attacking threats the All Blacks will pose.
“They have been kicking a lot recently,” he told RFUtv. “I think from the last time they played us they were playing a lot and now they seem to be kicking a lot of nine and 10, which still works for them.
“They still get up there and challenge a lot for the ball in the air so we will have to be on form for it. But also the other attacking threats they have with ball in hand. You have got to watch out for everything and be in the right position at the right time.”
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He added: “Defence is going to be a big part of it. It has done us well in the last two weeks. I think keeping New Zealand out as we did with Argentina will go a long way will go a long way to getting us the win.”
The All Blacks’ defeat to England last December was their only loss in 33 matches – a run that stretches back to August 2011. Ashton, who scored in last year’s win, insists England will not be daunted by that run, which was extended with victory over France last weekend. Though, they will give them the respect demanded by such success.
“It is not intimidating, you can’t see it as intimidating, but you have got to respect what they have done and appreciate what they are going to bring to the party,” he said.
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Ashton’s try in the victory over Argentina last weekend was his 18th in 36 internationals and took him joint-ninth with Cyril Lowe on the list of England’s top tryscorers. He is as eager as ever to add to that haul against New Zealand and admits the new awareness within the squad of England’s rugby heritage, which has been impressed upon the players by the coaches, is a strong source of inspiration.
“It is nice to be up there,” he said. “It is always nice to get a try and I’d like a couple more, and hopefully they will keep coming.”
He continued: “England have such a massive history in rugby with the people who have played before us; the jobs they had alongside rugby and what they went through to play for England. We didn’t really realise until they brought it up and it is a good point to be brought up. It makes us realise about who have played before us and the footsteps we are walking in.”