Final weekend, the 35-year-old, cross-code wing scored a surprising hat-trick for the Tigers in opposition to Bristol, to surge ahead of Tom Varndell because the Premiership’s all-time high finisher – with 95 tries.
He has his sights set on reaching a century, however first Ashton will hope to be within the match-day squad to face mighty Leinster at Welford Street on Saturday night. If he does play in opposition to the Irish province, it is going to be a possibility to reinforce his European scoring document; one other distinction on his CV.
Veteran wing Chris Ashton has been a man reborn since becoming a member of Leicester Tigers in February
That momentous quarter-final of the Heineken Champions Cup is simply the kind of grand event which he will need to have feared he would by no means participate in once more, after being launched final December by Worcester. Ashton’s transient, ill-fated stint at Sixways adopted equally troubled spells at Harlequins and Sale. He gave the impression to be fading in the direction of retirement, however Leicester provided him a shot and he has responded with a reminder of his enduring, predatory class.
His influence has supplied a lift to the Tigers, as they chase home and continental honours. Their England scrum-half Ben Youngs paid tribute to Ashton – a long-time team-mate at international stage – saying: ‘He is gone by way of a good few golf equipment, however he is come right here and settled in. He is labored laborious, he is by no means given up when it comes to what he desires and his requirements have by no means dropped.
‘I tip my hat to him, he has an unbelievable knack of scoring tries. He is very very like Jonny Could; they only know methods to rating tries. Generally they rating when there is not any proper to do it, they only discover a manner.’
Towards Bristol, Ashton’s long-range strike to clinch his hat-trick completely showcased his consciousness, instinctive help play and eye for a gap.
Youngs supplied the help and he added: ‘With Chris, you simply know he will be round you. As quickly as I bought the ball (within the Bristol sport), I simply knew he was going to be there – it was nearly whether or not he went left or proper. Compliments to him, it is an unbelievable achievement. He is been an important addition to the squad.’
He scored a hat-trick in opposition to Bristol on April 30 to be the Premiership’s all-time high finisher
Steve Borthwick, Leicester’s head coach, provided his personal tribute to the veteran, box-office recruit – as a lot due to his diligence behind the scenes as his on-field exploits. Requested what had modified since his transfer throughout the Midlands, he mentioned: ‘I am unable to evaluate him to when he was at Worcester, as a result of I did not actually know him then.
‘I knew him once I performed alongside him (at Saracens) and there are an enormous variety of similarities; how laborious he trains, how aggressive he’s and his thirst to get the ball. He works off his wing and finds the ball brilliantly. It is so just like once I performed with him.
‘What he is developed and added is how a lot he helps younger guys. After I knew him earlier than, he was a younger man himself, however now he’s a senior man. He has been round, seen plenty of issues and he’s beneficiant in imparting that to everybody else. He is including an infinite quantity to our squad.’
Maybe that could be a clue to probably the most important change, which has allowed Ashton to revive his profession. His abrupt, untimely departures from Worcester, Quins and Sale got here amid rumours of pressure and unrest.
Nicely-placed sources have prompt that Ashton’s ‘single-minded’ nature typically led to clashes with team-mates and coaches when requirements fell under his sky-high expectations. His fierce drive and uncompromising angle put a number of noses out of joint and inside some squads this partaking character got here to be seen as a divisive determine.
However his personal dedication did not waiver and at Leicester – his sixth Premiership club – he seems to have discovered the proper match. The club are on a roll, he’s aware of the likes of Youngs and player-coach Richard Wigglesworth, he’s working with a rugby league legend in Kevin Sinfield, his former agent, Richard Wilks, is on the Tigers now as head of efficiency recruitment – and Borthwick noticed match to gamble on him.
Having been jolted by the spectre of enforced retirement, Ashton’s gratitude has been evident in his work-rate and sheer enthusiasm. Talking on the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, he mentioned: ‘It is wonderful how rapidly issues can change.
‘I’m determined to be on the market each week, as a result of Steve and Leicester have given me an opportunity when no-one else would. Your profession can go up and down – and you could find your self in unusual conditions, as I did. I have been given a second wind so I do not lack motivation to assist this crew.’