In an exclusive interview with GiveMeSport, England and Saracens' winger Chris Ashton has insisted that the timing of England's upcoming three-test tour to New Zealand "is a good thing as well as bad."
Players involved in the Aviva Premiership final on May 30 will miss England's first test against New Zealand the following week as they do not have enough time to travel and prepare.
After England head coach Stuart Lancaster names his final squad at 12pm on May 26, England will fly out to New Zealand on May 27. But the squad will not be completed until Saracens and Northampton release their players, following the conclusion of the domestic season.
The Aviva Premiership final will deny Lancaster of 13 potential players, including Ashton, and these names will be added to an already lengthy list of injured absentees.
But speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, Ashton contended that the timing of the tour will have it's advantages.
"The timing of it is poor." conceded Ashton, "But it is a good thing as well as a bad thing. I know we have to get out there as soon as possible and play, but we will also go straight out feeling fit and ready to go and play a game against the All Blacks.
"I don't think we need to much preparation for that, we know what the task is we just have to go and give it our best."
International Rugby Board (IRB) regulations state that players should be granted a week off, after club games, to prepare for test matches.
The first Saturday on June 7 had been designated by the IRB as a rest day, meaning the first test should have been played seven days after that Saturday, on June 14.
But New Zealand convinced the IRB to broaden the interpretation to include the whole weekend. So Sunday June 1 has now been declared a rest day, despite being the day that marks the end of the European club season.
England captain Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood have already condemned the scheduling of the tour and it will certainly frustrate Lancaster. Attempting to bring the world champion's 14-match unbeaten run to an end, in their own back yard was always going to be tough, but with such a depleted squad, it has now become a very daunting task.
But Ashton seems to be relishing the opportunity, "It is always tough going out there. I have only visited New Zealand once and played against the Moaris, in a mid-week game. We got beaten there, I think Hosea Gear scored two that day.
"They love it, the whole country gets behind them, it is such a big thing for New Zealand, they all love the All Blacks. There is not a better place to go and pick up a win.
"I am looking forward to it, I'm looking forward to hopefully being on tour and being involved again."
Of course Ashton has not yet been selected for the tour. The Wigan-born winger has not represented his country since November 2013 when England were beaten 22-30 by the All Blacks.
But Ashton has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 20 tries in all competitions, including a record-breaking 11 in the Heineken Cup. And with Christian Wade and Jack Nowell unavailable due to injury, Lancaster will struggle to overlook Ashton.
England tour of New Zealand
Saturday, June 7: 1st Test - Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday, June 14: 2nd Test - Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Tuesday, June 17: Crusaders - AMI (Addington) Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday, June 21: 3rd Test - Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
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