Rugby: Banned biter Ashton labelled 'the Luis Suarez of rugby'

Chris Ashton catches the ball during the match between Saracens and Northampton. Photo / Getty
Chris Ashton catches the ball during the match between Saracens and Northampton. Photo / Getty

Chris Ashton was given an early indication of the stigma attached to his latest offence, as a fellow player compared him to the notorious football biter, Luis Suarez.

Australia wing Drew Mitchell made the damning association on Twitter, after former England centre Will Greenwood had referred to Ashton as the 'Mario Balotelli of rugby'. The Toulon player wrote: 'Chris Ashton is not the Mario Balotelli of rugby... he is the Luis Suarez. There are just NO excuses.'


His comments followed hours after the late-night ruling by an RFU-appointed disciplinary panel to suspend Ashton for 13 weeks, for biting Alex Waller of Northampton last Saturday at Allianz Park. Saracens are awaiting the full written judgment, which is due to be released on Thursday, before deciding whether to appeal against the conviction, after their player had pleaded not guilty.

In the East Midlands on Wednesday, the Saints were expressing their frustration that the incident which Ashton was later found guilty of had not been punished with a red card at the time. Alan Dickens, Northampton's assistant coach, said: 'We feel let down by the officiating on the day.

'Greg Garner (referee) said there was clear evidence as Alex showed him his arm; clear evidence which suggests teeth marks. I have got four boys, three of whom play rugby, and they are asking me if it is okay to bite. The answer to that is no.'

Tom Wood, the Northampton captain and a former team-mate of Ashton for club and country, was asked if he was surprised by the wing's actions. He said: 'I don't know. Not overly. He has been in a spot of bother recently. He gets himself into some trouble and from that point of view I am not overly surprised that it is him who is in a spot of bother.

'I am surprised and somewhat shocked that anyone bites anyone in the modern game. There is not a place in the game for biting and I am amazed that it has happened.'

When Ashton blazed on to the Test scene with a torrent of tries for England, Lewis Moody was the national captain and told Sportsmail: 'It doesn't seem weird to me that this has happened. Chris is one of those guys who is not a bad bloke, he's a nice guy and an affable character, but he does seem to get himself into these situations too often.

'The frustration for his coaches must be that he is not learning from mistakes. They must begin to wonder if they can trust him in the side, even though he is such a talented player. He clearly has an issue with his temperament and he needs to get it sorted out. Maybe he should see a sports psychologist about it. You have to wonder if he is getting the help he needs, but it is the responsibility of the individual to figure out what is going on and address it.'

Moody knows from personal experience how a player can find themselves dragged into a downward spiral of disciplinary problems and setbacks. He added: 'When I was sent off, playing for England at Twickenham, I got a number of yellow cards in club games after that. I was being quite violent. I was feeling frustrated about the amount of injuries I was getting and that is how it manifested itself. Eventually, I was told that I had an anger-management issue and had to deal with it.'

For several years, Ashton has polarised opinions in rugby. His finishing exploits have generated due praise, but some of his antics and excesses have somehow managed to antagonise many observers.

Asked about perceptions of the 29-year-old, Moody said: 'As an opponent, he can rile people, but as a member of your team, he is a perfectly decent lad and very entertaining - the sort of guy you need to have around.

'But individuals like that have to realise that they are part of a team and their actions can have consequences for the rest of that team. Look at Kevin Pietersen; he is such a talented cricketer and should have won hundreds of caps for England, but he hasn't and there is a reason for that.

'Chris Ashton has been one of the best wingers this country has had for years, but for various reasons he hasn't played as often for England as he should have done. When he turned down a place on the Saxons tour this year, that might have been a nail in the coffin, because rugby is all about teamwork and proving that you are worthy of being picked.

'As a talent, he is exceptional, which makes it even more frustrating how things have turned out. Chris needs support and if he gets it, I have no doubt that he'll be back. It would be great to see him at his best again, scoring tries for fun like he did when he first played for England.'

- Daily Mail

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