Eddie Jones is willing to pick Chris Ashton for England’s autumn opener against South Africa despite his inactivity this season.
Ashton has a strong chance of making his first Test appearance for four years on November 3 after swapping Toulon for Sale during the summer.
A seven-week ban incurred for a tip-tackle made during pre-season has prevented the dual code wing from making his Sharks debut until this weekend, just four days before England head to Portugal for their pre-autumn training camp.
Jones would be happy to select him against the Springboks when Twickenham hosts the first of four Quilter Internationals, however, after seeing evidence of his desire to relaunch his 39-cap career.
“Chris is a try scorer, he’s a brilliant support player and he’s hungry. Apart from Owen Farrell, I don’t think I’ve seen a hungrier player for England,” Jones said.
“The fact he’s turned down whatever he was getting paid in Toulon because he wants to play at the World Cup is a great example.
“We don’t have that many good support players. With his infectious attitude, it’s a no brainer to have him in the squad.”
Ashton has developed a chequered disciplinary record with the bans for biting and making contact with the eye area totalling 23 weeks incurred in 2016 influencing his decision to join Toulon.
“They’re isolated incidents. He gets in a bit of a rage but as you get older you learn to control that,” Jones said.
“I thought his last ban was unlucky, but that’s the way the game is at the moment. The game has become so tight on foul play.
“I’m not saying it’s wrong but you’ve got to be careful about the way you behave.”
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England have lost 18 players to injury, suspension or retirement and Jones admits he asks himself “who’s next” each time one of his stars is ruled out.
The biggest loss of all is Billy Vunipola, who has suffered a third broken arm in 10 months to rule him out of the entire series and confront Jones with a crisis at number eight.
“Billy’s had a nightmare run and you could see he’s just starting to get back,” Jones said.
“Now he’s had another setback and he’s got to fight through it and he will. We have had a quick text conversation. He has strong beliefs and he will get through it.
“I cannot control what Billy does at Saracens. I only have him for nine weeks between now and July. In that time, we will look after him like he is the king’s baby.”