Saracens winger Chris Ashton will join French Champions Toulon in a big-money move next summer, all but ending any chance of reviving his England career.
Mark McCall – Saracen’s director of rugby – has voiced his concerns, saying Ashton’s decision to leave the North London giants is a mistake and will do nothing to further his career.
McCall said, via the Mirror: “I understand his reasons for going. He’s almost 30 years old and this is his opportunity to get a big contract. But if you’re asking me if it’s the right move from a rugby point of view to develop his game or develop him as a person, I think it’s not and I told him that.”
According to Ashton it was “easily the hardest” decision he had ever made, choosing to leave “one of the greatest rugby clubs in the world” but the opportunity to play in France was apparently too alluring to ignore.
While Ashton’s move will see him earn more than his £250,000 yearly salary at Saracens, it was “the experience and opportunity to play in France” that was “too good to turn down”, something McCall clearly doesn’t agree with.
Article continues below
The move is a questionable one as Saracens are not only European Champions, they’ve also won the Aviva Premiership for the last two seasons running and recently beat the French Galacticos at Stade Mayol – something no other side has ever achieved.
National team hopes are dashed
As England do not currently select players based overseas, Ashton has to be aware his chances of playing for the national team again are all but over.
Although he was recently recalled to the England setup he’s not eligible to play for the Saxons until mid-December and after missing the Six Nations through suspension and being overlooked by Eddie Jones for the tour of Australia, it looks like the Saracen star’s international days have come to an end.
Although Toulon have passionate fans, offer a Cote d’Azur lifestyle and can realistically afford to buy anyone, McCall is clearly upset at Ashton’s decision to leave London, convinced the player had more to offer than he may realise.
“His game has come on leaps and bounds at this club," McCall added, via the Telegraph. "This is the right club for him to grow as a player and as a person. We wouldn’t have given him a two-year extension if we didn’t think there was more in him."
Time will tell whether or not Ashton’s decision to give up on his international career and turn his back on The Wolf Pack, the club he’s been a part of for the best part of five years, but the bumper pay package and Mediterranean lifestyle will make becoming a lone wolf a whole lot easier, even if McCall doesn’t think so.