Cueto words of caution for Ashton

AMID the English euphoria surrounding Chris Ashton’s remarkable introduction to Test rugby, his team-mate Mark Cueto issued some words of caution.

Ashton has became the first Englishman to score four tries in a Five or Six Nations international since Ronald Poulton achieved the feat against France in 1914.

Having also touched down twice in England’s victory over Wales, Ashton has already equalled the record for one Six Nations campaign held by Will Greenwood (2001) and Shane Williams (2008).

The 23-year-old Northampton wing, who only made his Test debut in the final game of last year’s championship, now has a remarkable nine tries from nine Tests and he is riding the crest of a wave.

Six years ago Cueto made a similar impact on international rugby but his feast of eight tries in eight Tests soon turned to famine as defences got wise. Cueto has warned Ashton he will have to deal with the challenges of being a marked man – starting against France at Twickenham in two weeks’ time.

“Teams start to target you and they will maybe throw extra defenders (at Ashton),” said Cueto, who ended an 18-Test try drought in the 59-13 victory over Italy.”

That said, Cueto believes the unique way Ashton reads the game will make him very difficult to stop.

“There is an art to what he does and it is unbelievable. He just anticipates everything,” said Cueto. “He will be tracking a play from 10 metres offside just in the hope that they will make a line-break and then he will be in that position.

“A lot of the times, if you are not offside, you are never going to be there. In the past, wingers have almost trailed the play from an onside position and if someone did make a line break, you are 10 metres behind the play and it is difficult to get there.”

Even if France do target Ashton, Cueto believes that can only benefit an England side which, for the first time in a long time, boasts attacking threats across the field.

“It is not a case of shutting Ashy down and we stop winning. If you throw two men at Ashy then there is going to be a gap somewhere else and someone else will exploit it,” Cueto said.

England manager Martin Johnson also hailed Ashton as a unique talent: “Chris is a bit different. When Jason Robinson came into the team he was different in how he played and Chris is different again,” Johnson said.

“We need finishers. They make the difference in games. Chris is enjoying what he does but underneath that he does work hard, he is conscientious and he wants to be a very good player. The world is very, very quick now. At the start of last season Chris wasn’t sure of place in the Northampton team and he was playing for England by the end of it.

“When you think where he is now, we are very pleased with his progress. I don’t think anyone could have definitely said he would be where he is now.”

ENGLAND: Foden, Ashton, Tindall, Hape, Cueto, Flood, Youngs, Corbisiero, Hartley, Cole, Deacon, Palmer, Wood, Haskell, Easter.

Replacements: Banahan for Cueto (50), Wilkinson for Flood (55), Care for Youngs (55), Thompson for Hartley (50), Wilson for Cole (62), Shaw for Deacon (46), Fourie for Wood (62).

ITALY: McLean, Masi, Canale, Sgarbi, Bergamasco, Orquera, Semenzato, Perugini, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Del Fava, Geldenhuys, Bernabo, Zanni, Parisse.

Replacements: Burton for McLean (79), Garcia for Sgarbi (59), Ongaro for Ghiraldini (66), Dellape for Del Fava (47), Barbieri for Bernabo (60), Canavosio for Parisse (63).

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).

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