Cape Town - Chris Ashton believes he has returned to the England fold a better player for his experiences over the last few years.
According to the official England Rugby website, Ashton last played for England in 2014 with a combination of suspensions and playing abroad resulting in an international exile of over four years.
The 31-year-old wing spent a season in Toulon but has returned to play for Sale, scoring a hat-trick for the club last weekend.
However, he never gave up hope of adding to his tally of 39 caps.
“I’ve never stopped fighting or wanting to play for England,” he said.
“I thought at one time that 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.”
Ashton added: “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.”
The former Northampton Saints and Saracens player’s last England appearance was a 36-13 defeat to New Zealand but he has the opportunity to put that to bed with November Tests against South Africa, the All Blacks, Japan and Australia on the horizon.
And he admits a lot has changed in the England camp since his last cap with Ashton relishing the chance to complete his international comeback.
“It’s down me to me now to train well here and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to play,” he said.
“It’s been quite a journey in between and it’s not something I like to look back on. A few times I’ve felt it might be my last game but it’s nice to be a bit closer to getting a chance and let that not be my last game for England.
“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.”