Chris Ashton believes he has returned to the England squad as a better player after spending four years in the international wilderness.
Ashton last played for England in 2014 but a combination of injuries and suspensions saw him unable to add to his tally of 39 Test caps.
The 31-year-old wing returned to the Premiership with the Sale Sharks following a season-long stint with Toulon in France, marking his comeback with a hat-trick on debut.
Ashton – back in the England squad for their November Tests against the Springboks, All Blacks, Japan and Australia – said that despite his international exile, he never gave up his hopes of representing his country again.
‘I’ve never stopped fighting or wanting to play for England,’ Ashton told the England Rugby website. ‘I thought at one time that the decision might be taken away from me by having a couple of bans, so I changed things and tried something new and went to France and that worked out really well for me and I feel better for the experience.
‘I’d like to think I’ve gone away and continually tried to get better and find a positive in everything and turn it to my advantage.’
Ashton admitted a lot has changed in the England camp since his last cap, but he is still eager to learn.
‘It’s down to me now to train well here and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to play. There are not many lads in the squad who were playing when I last did, the coaches have changed, everything has changed.
‘It’s completely new for me, nothing is the same and I like that. It’s a nice place to be, everything is new and I’m constantly learning.’
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