Chris Ashton reveals reasons behind swap from Saracens to Toulon

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Chris Ashton has revealed a combination of his England exile and treatment by the rugby authorities compelled him to swap Saracens for Toulon.

Ashton scored the only try of the afternoon against the French club he is joining in June as Mark McCall's holders booked a home Champions Cup quarterfinal by prevailing 10-3 at Allianz Park on Saturday.

It was his fourth try in three starts since completing a 13-week suspension for biting, his second lengthy ban of 2016.

Ashton feels he has suffered unfairly at the hands of the disciplinary process and also cites his fall from favour with England as a driving force behind his £420,000 a year move to the Cote D'Azur that means he is no longer eligible for international selection.

Eddie Jones picked him in his first RBS 6 Nations squad but he was removed after being banned for making contact with the eye area of Ulster's Luke Marshall and has been omitted ever since.

"I was sick of leaving my international career in other people's hands," said Ashton, speaking for the first time since his serving his most recent suspension.

"The decision is always made by a coach and like any player who does not get in I disagreed with that decision.

"I hope I will play again one day, but for the time being I chose to go to play rugby abroad. I will never give up hope, but it makes it harder moving abroad.

"Saracens would rather I stayed, but they are very understanding people. They understand my motives for wanting to leave.

"You look at it from both sides and they understand my situation with England and how I felt towards being banned again."

Saracens and Toulon produced an epic to match their Pool Three opener in the south of France in October with the reigning champions showing remarkable resilience to deny their great rivals in the closing minutes.

It was Ashton's slick 60th-minute finish, aided by fragile defending from Ma'a Nonu and Matt Giteau, that proved decisive.

"I tried not think about the fact I was playing Toulon. We were at home in a big game and I tried to concentrate on that," Ashton said.

"It is different moving to a club that is in France because they are not a team I face year on year.

"It ended up with me scoring the decisive try -- the opportunity came up and I was in the right place at the right time.

"It was a scrappy game, it was always going to be like that, very physical. How we kept their centres contained and did not let them score a try I have no idea.

"The team were outstanding. While we were disappointed at some of the opportunities we did not take, we are happy to get the win."

Toulon claimed three successive European titles until being deposed by Saracens last year, losing their way during the 2015-16 season and then parting company with Diego Dominguez to pave the way for Mike Ford to take over.

"We pretty much lost to Clermont and then we drew a line in the sand and said: 'Look, Jonny's [Wilkinson] not here anymore, Bernard Laporte's not here anymore and we can't keep living off the three cups we won'," Ford said.

"We've not won anything now for 18 months and we were in danger of going out of the pool stages of the Champions Cup. So we drew a line in the sand and it's been very good since."