Chris Ashton: Harlequins and England wing 'shocked' by Sale departure

Chris Ashton
Chris Ashton is just seven tries short of becoming the Premiership's all-time top try scorer

New Harlequins winger Chris Ashton says the manner of his departure from Sale last week came as "a shock".

Ashton's former boss at Sale, Steve Diamond, said the ex-England player left after a "difference of opinion".

The 32-year-old said he had "disagreed" with Diamond in a meeting but was "completely unaware of any problem".

"I didn't feel as though we had the relationship that I'd hoped for," Ashton told BBC Radio 5 Live's Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

"We did bang heads on a few things but it's only because I wanted the club to get better and win, it was never any other way than that."

LISTEN: Ashton discusses his Sale exit on Rugby Union Weekly

Ashton is third in the Premiership's all-time list of top try-scorers - with 86 to his name - and joined Harlequins two days after his Sale deal was terminated by mutual consent.

"It is a shock that Steve said that and it's a shock he said it to me last Monday night, that he felt that way," he said.

"I could've gone in and said I want to change this opinion you have of me but I didn't necessarily believe it was right."

'It took a while to sink in'

Ashton won the last of his 44 England Test caps in February 2019 but at club level is six tries behind Tom Varndell's Premiership record, and has targeted reaching 100.

He spent 18 months at Sale after joining them from Toulon, where he broke the Top 14 try-scoring record.

"After I got home from my meeting [with Steve Diamond] my mum and missus said 'what's wrong with you'."

"I must've been as white as some kitchen cupboards.

"They said 'what's up' - 'I haven't got a job, I don't think I've got a job' - it was that fast."

Ashton (left) and Danny Care playing together for England in 2010
Ashton (left) and Danny Care playing together for England in 2010

His fellow Rugby Union Weekly presenter, and now Quins team-mate, Danny Care said he tried persuading head of rugby Paul Gustard to sign Ashton on his return from France in 2018.

"I always thought he's exactly the type of player we need at the club. Someone who will drive standards, improve training and he scores tries," he added.

"What I love about this bloke is that he isn't afraid to speak his mind.

"Not many people, especially these days in rugby, do that because they know the consequences of it."

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