Ashton vow: No England return

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BRIAN Ashton has dismissed out of hand continuing speculation linking him with a return to the England rugby set-up.

His insistence that England is not remotely on the agenda comes after he stepped down from his role as coaching consultant at Fylde rugby club, a job he has held for the past two seasons.

Ashton said: “I am working in an ambassadorial role with the firm Kukri Sports and there are two potential options of work to consider as well.

“I can’t discuss what they are, but what I can say is that they have nothing to do with England rugby.

“People can speculate all they want but I have not spoken to anyone at Twickenham since 2008. That has not changed.”

Ashton, 65, led England to the 2007 World Cup final, losing against South Africa in Paris, during a 16-month stint at the helm after which he was unceremoniously – and many would say unfairly– sacked.

He had previously worked as Sir Clive Woodward’s England coaching assistant following a successful spell at Bath, and he also headed up the Rugby Football Union’s national academy for three years. He also had a spell coaching Ireland

The RFU confirmed this week that Mike Catt would join England’s new coaching set-up under Stuart Lancaster for the three-Test South Africa tour next month, although at this stage it is a short-term arrangement.

Ashton said his roles with Kukri and possible other openings would prevent him taking part in training sessions at the Woodlands on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Working in tandem with Fylde head coach Mark Nelson, Ashton’s stay at the Woodlands has coincided with the club’s most successful period since the turn of the century.

Ashton, who lives in Lytham, said: “I never came back to live in this area with the intention of coaching, but I have enjoyed the last two years, and I hope the players have enjoyed it and the success they’ve had.

“I hope the team can push on from where they are now.

“I hope to come down to watch Fylde at their home matches.”