Chris Ashton has been backed as a strong contender for an England recall by his former Toulon team-mate Bryan Habana after joining Sale Sharks.
In his only season with Toulon after departing Saracens, Ashton set a new Top 14 try-scoring record with 24 in 23 appearances.
He was released from his contract in the south of France two years early to complete a move to Sale, where he hopes to reignite his hopes of appearing at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Habana has no doubt Ashton’s mentality will put him firmly in the frame as England look to pick themselves up from a 2-1 series defeat to South Africa in June and build up to Japan 2019.
“Breaking the Top 14 try-scoring record in your first season and the way in which he did it was absolutely fantastic,” Habana told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of Coco Fuzion 100.
“I think he’d have probably been disappointed not to have been seen as one of those special additions into that England set-up at either the Six Nations or in South Africa in June.
“He’s made a decision to go back to Sale… purely from a Toulon point of view it’s sad to see because he had such a massive impact there, but really I think that, given his work ethic, given his professionalism, given how well he’s played over the last year, he’ll continue doing that at Sale and in so doing push for a place in that England set-up.
“Chris is a resilient fighter and he’ll definitely be working really hard to regain his place in that England set-up.”
After losing their Six Nations crown this year with just two wins in the process, England blew leads of 21 and 12 points as they lost their opening two Tests of their tour to South Africa.
However, Habana believes England will have benefited from some time off after a hectic schedule and is confident Eddie Jones can get them back on track ahead of the World Cup.
“Winning that last game in Cape Town could’ve maybe turned the ship around. Eddie’s a resilient fighter so he’ll already have started planning after that last game in Cape Town for the Autumn series, putting things into place,” said Habana.
“He’s one of the best students of the game, an excellent tactician as well, so Eddie will be feeling the pressure but he thrives under pressure as well.
“He’ll know that a lot of that group that played in South Africa will have got a decent break and he’ll be planning that next block leading into the autumn series already.
“Saying exactly where England have gone wrong post that run of 17 straight wins is difficult to say. A lot of those English players have played a lot of rugby over the last two years. If you take the British and Irish Lions series, Saracens winning the Champions Cup [twice], Premiership rugby – there’s been a lot of rugby.
“Hopefully this break that a lot of the players have now got will sort of refresh the batteries and put them on a good path going to the Rugby World Cup next year.”
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