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CHRIS ASHTON’S international comeback has stalled after the England wing was ruled out of Saturday’s climax to the autumn series against Australia by a calf problem.
Ashton will be limited to three appearances this month due to the injury sustained in the 35-15 victory over Japan at Twickenham, a scan confirming that he will be sidelined for a fortnight.
The 31-year-old became available for England once more when he left Toulon for Sale over the summer and Eddie Jones immediately selected him in his squad for the autumn internationals.
When Manu Tuilagi was ruled out of the opener against South Africa because of a groin strain, he was cleared to win his 40th cap and first in over four years.
“Chris Ashton was hurt in the game on Saturday,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.
“He’s been scanned and investigated and unfortunately the injury means he will be out for a couple of weeks. He’ll leave camp today [Tuesday].
“Chris is a fantastic player who knows his way to the try-line. He’s been great around the squad the last few weeks. It’s very disappointing he’s out.”
Ashton fell out of favour under Stuart Lancaster and then Jones, whose opportunities to pick the dual code international were restricted by a succession of bans.
He made only one appearance for Sale this season due to a seven-week suspension incurred for a tip-tackle before being picked by England.
Jonny May and Jack Nowell are set to be restored to the wings for the first time since the series opener against South Africa, but Bath powerhouse Joe Cokanasiga is a fringe contender to start.
Cokanasiga produced a promising debut against Japan, using his 6’4’’ and 18 stone frame to good effect to score the decisive try and make a number of dents on the Brave Blossoms line.
However, as he’s just turned 21, the Wallabies might be deemed too big a hurdle to face.
“Joe did really well. He’s got massive potential and is really eager to learn and hungry to learn,” Borthwick said.
“Physically he’s got some great attributes and attitude-wise he wants to be the best he can be. He’s a young guy who has a lot of potential.”
Tuilagi is unlikely to be involved on Saturday as he continues his battle for full fitness, but the Leicester centre remains with the squad and has yet to be officially ruled out against Australia.
“Manu trained very hard this morning [Tuesday] and has another session today. He’s working really hard to get as fit as possible, so we’ll keep assessing him,” Borthwick said.
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