Chris Ashton will be unleashed against New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday with instructions from Eddie Jones to play with a smile on his face.
Ashton makes his first England start for four years in place of the benched Jack Nowell on the right wing after impressing during his 15-minute spell as a substitute in the 12-11 victory over South Africa.
The 31-year-old wing has amassed 40 caps in a Test career interrupted by a run of lengthy suspensions, falling out of favour with successive England coaches and a season-long spell at Toulon.
Now restored to the starting XV, his strike rate of 19 tries is evidence of a predatory instinct that Jones insists must be allowed to flourish.
“Chris can sniff a try from anywhere and to beat New Zealand you have got to score tries. He’s in good form, has looked sharp and is a try-getter,” Jones said.
“That try-scoring skill is nothing coached. Guys like that, the only thing you can do is stuff them up by coaching them.
“You just give them a free rein, give them a framework to operate in, make them feel good about themselves, make sure they’ve got a smile on their face and away they go.”
Since Jones took charge Ashton has served 30 weeks’ worth of suspensions for biting, making contact with the eye area and a tip tackle, the last offence limiting him to only one appearance for Sale this season after joining them in the summer.
“If he hadn’t got into so much trouble, he’d have played a few Tests already. He’s always up to no good. Wherever there’s trouble, there’s Ashton,” Jones said.
“He might have a deal with a lawyer that he gets paid extra if the lawyer gets extra work.”
Manu Tuilagi is overlooked for the bench after recovering from a minor groin strain as England look to restore him to full fitness in time for the final two matches of the autumn against Japan and Australia.
Jones has made two further changes with Ben Moon coming in for Alec Hepburn at loosehead prop and Sam Underhill replacing openside Tom Curry, who has been ruled out of the rest of the autumn by an ankle injury.
Owen Farrell will continue to co-captain the team one week after he escaped disciplinary action for a controversial injury-time tackle on Andre Esterhuizen.
While that challenge cast a spotlight on Farrell’s physical approach, Jones believes it is England’s playmaker who is given insufficient protection by referees while borderline hits on Ireland’s Johnny Sexton are often condemned.
“If he was Sexton then we’d be able to complain about him, but because he’s Owen Farrell he’s allowed to be hit late. He’s tough so he gets up and he plays,” Jones said.
“He’s a tough rooster, a warrior. He takes the ball to the line, he puts his body on the line, he doesn’t play in a dinner suit.
“We manage him every week. Players like him are never 100% right. They get on the field, they play and they give you everything they’ve got and he’s like that.
“He wants to play every week. If we are playing marbles on a Wednesday, he wants to play. He’s a competitor. You can’t put blokes like him in cotton wool.”
- Press Association