June International Tours

Ashton learns on his voyage

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It would be all to easy to write off England’s tour to South Africa as a disaster. But despite two hugely one-sided scorelines, Brian Ashton believes it was a hugely beneficial trip.

England, in heroic fashion, led the Springboks at the break of the second Test, and there was a genuine belief in the changing room that the tourists could go on to win the game.

Yet what followed was a green tidal wave that washed over England in unrelenting fashion leaving them shattered and well beaten for the second week running.

“I was very pleased at half time to be honest,” said Ashton.

“With the ball we had I thought we played so much better than last week. We played in the right areas of the field for long periods.

“I thought some of our gang tackling around the ruck on their big ball carriers was fantastic.

“It is a credit on the guys playing at the core of the side from the base of the scrum to midfield, that we were able to get into the right areas this week.”

But having gained momentum at the stroke of half-time with a Dan Scarbrough intercept try, England failed to control the game after the interval. Bakkies Botha crashed over just three minutes into the second half and from then on it was an uphill battle for England.

The defensive effort from England pleased Ashton, especially after the manner in which his side fell off tackles late on in the first Test. But it was the lack of field position in the second half that Ashton felt was a main factor in his sides inability to stay in the game.

“I thought we defended exceptionally well and I felt if we could get some more ball to play a more attacking game then we might have got a lot closer to the Boks than we did in the second half,” he said.

“At the start of the second half we made simple errors and allowed the Springboks to mount pressure on us.

“They cranked up their game in the last twenty minutes just as our energy levels started to drop.

“That’s when the tackles we had been making in the first half we started to drop off.

“One or two players showed they’re capable of competing at this level but overall I am disappointed, to be honest.

“I did think at half-time that we’d dig in for the first 10 minutes and we didn’t. We made silly mistakes and the game gradually slipped away.

“We let the Springboks build up a head of steam and when that happened, it was a one-horse race.

“I expect international players to put their bodies on the line for the whole 80 minutes.

“You can’t play for 50 minutes and expect to win against South Africa.”

It is not often a coach can return from a trip such as this and feel he has gained something. We must not forget Ashton was deprived over 30 first choice players before departure and then a further seven from his squad through illness and injury.

But Ashton saw the lack of first choice players as a major positive, as he was able to cast an eye over a new crop of English talent, and while he would not reveal names he clearly stated there are a few players who have moved up the pecking order.

“There have been positives from my point of view to take out of this trip and I’m talking about the commitment and determination in the trip and the way everyone has shown that,” he said.

“We were under no illusions when we left England a few weeks ago as to how big the challenge we would be facing over here would be.

“Sure enough the last two Saturdays that challenge has appeared out on the pitch in a big way.

“One of the reasons for coming here was to find out about players who might play a part in the World Cup and who have not been a regular part of English rugby over the past few years.

“From that point of view alone it has got to be looked upon as a positive experience.”

It may have been Ashton’s first tour in charge of an England squad but it is one he has appr

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