Lancaster may stick with Ashton for Paris duel

England head coach Stuart Lancaster insists Chris Ashton remains a wing option against France as he puts the finishing touches to selection for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations opener.

Lancaster may stick with Ashton for Paris duel

Ashton’s 37 caps identify him as a serious contender for the Paris showdown — even though his form stagnated throughout the autumn – with injuries to Marland Yarde and Christian Wade making him all but a certain inclusion.

Lancaster has indicated he will be happy to pitch any two of rookie trio Jack Nowell, Jonny May or Anthony Watson into battle at the Stade de France if he deems them ready for such a critical match.

But Lancaster has noted Ashton’s resurgence at Saracens in the wake of an underwhelming series of QBE Internationals and still views him as his most accomplished support runner.

“After the autumn he went back to Saracens, worked on his game and has played well since,” said Lancaster, who names his team on Thursday morning.

“There are still areas of his game that he’s working on, but his form since the autumn has been good.”

Meanwhile, Wales are keeping cards close to their chest regarding skipper Sam Warburton’s prospects of facing Italy next Saturday. Warburton has not played since the autumn series finale against Australia almost two months ago due to a shoulder injury.

Wales coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his team today.

Warburton could either be pitched straight in, given a role off the bench or not be involved and play for Cardiff Blues in their LV= Cup appointment with Harlequins on Friday night.

With prop Gethin Jenkins struggling to overcome a knee problem, it is expected lock Alun-Wyn Jones will captain Wales next weekend if Warburton does not start.

“His (Warburton’s) return date is imminent, whether it is this week or next week,” Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards said.

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