London - Chris Ashton has said the combination of his
ongoing England exile and his treatment by rugby's disciplinary authorities
prompted his decision to leave Saracens for Toulon.
The wing scored the only try of the match as Saracens beat
the French side 10-3 in the pool phase of the European Champions Cup on
Victory at their Allianz Park ground in north London saw
reigning European champions Saracens book a home quarter-final, although a
star-studded Toulon will still join them in the last eight despite this defeat.
Ashton's score was the 29-year-old's fourth try in three
starts since he completed a 13-week ban for biting, his second major suspension
It was also a reminder of what the English game - and indeed
England - will miss when Ashton joins Toulon for a reported $520 000 a year in
With England coach Eddie Jones upholding the Rugby Football
Union's longstanding policy of refusing to select overseas-based players for
international duty save in "exceptional circumstances", Ashton has
effectively called time on a 39-Test career that has yielded 19 tries by moving
The Australian boss did select Ashton, whose last Red Rose
appearance was in 2014, in his first England squad.
But he was omitted after being banned for making contact
with the eye area of Ulster's Luke Marshall and Ashton has been in the Test
wilderness ever since.
"I was sick of leaving my international career in other
people's hands," said Ashton, speaking publicly for the first time since
completing his latest ban.
"The decision is always made by a coach and like any
player who does not get in I disagreed with that decision.
"I hope I will play again (for England) one day, but
for the time being I chose to go to play rugby abroad. I will never give up
hope, but it makes it harder moving abroad.
"Saracens would rather I stayed, but they are very
"You look at it from both sides and they understand my
situation with England and how I felt towards being banned again."
Ashton ensured Saracens, who defended superbly in the
closing stages, established a decisive lead over Toulon when he picked a line
between New Zealand's Ma'a Nonu and Australia's Matt Giteau for a 60th-minute
"I tried not think about the fact I was playing Toulon.
We were at home in a big game and I tried to concentrate on that," Ashton
Toulon were crowned champions of Europe for three successive
seasons until Saracens dethroned them last term during a campaign where they
also won the English title to complete a notable double.
The Cote d'Azur club, owned by wealthy comic publisher
Mourad Boudjellal, enjoyed a poor season by their own standards in 2015/16 and
that led them to dismiss coach Diego Dominguez.
The former Italy flyhalf was replaced by Mike Ford, who was
previously in charge of English Premiership side Bath.
Ford said a defeat by French rivals Clermont had proved a
turning point for Toulon, who enjoyed many of their most successful days when
retired England great Jonny Wilkinson and former France coach Bernard Laporte
were together at the Stade Mayol.
"We pretty much lost to Clermont and then we drew a
line in the sand and said: 'Look, Jonny's (Wilkinson) not here anymore, Bernard
Laporte's not here anymore and we can't keep living off the three cups we
won'," Ford said.
"We've not won anything now for 18 months and we were
in danger of going out of the pool stages of the Champions Cup. So we drew a
line in the sand and it's been very good since."