Ashton sees discipline benefits
Chris Ashton believes life on the straight and narrow is already paying dividends for England as they prepare to tackle Italy.
Last Updated: 09/02/12 10:19pm
Chris Ashton believes life on the straight and narrow is already paying dividends for England as they prepare to tackle Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
England opened their RBS Six Nations title defence with a committed and, crucially, a well-disciplined 13-6 victory over Scotland last weekend.
Despite making more tackles than ever before in a Test match - 238 by their own count - England conceded just nine penalties at Murrayfield.
It was a far cry from some of the dark disciplinary days under Martin Johnson, when England were often guilty of haemorrhaging penalties and points.
Last season, Ashton scored four tries as England beat Italy 59-13 at Twickenham - but also they conceded 18 penalties, and it was a problem Johnson never fully solved.
England got on the wrong side of referees at the World Cup and they conceded a torrent of penalties during their failed campaign, which was dogged by controversy.
Ashton admitted it needed an outside influence like the new interim head coach Stuart Lancaster to identify the problem - which he did immediately.
Lancaster believes there is a direct correlation between players' discipline off the field and their discipline on it and he set about changing the culture of the squad.
That led to Danny Care and Delon Armitage both being suspended from England's elite squads after finding themselves in trouble with the police.
But it also paved the way for an opening victory at Murrayfield that England will look to build on against the Azzurri.
"It's a mind-set in the team now, with people realising the impact it can have on a game if we keep giving away penalties. It is massive for us," Ashton said.
"At the World Cup it cost us a lot and in the end it is what got us knocked out, basically. It is something we have focused on a lot.
"Sometimes when you are involved with the team, you can't see that [behaviour off the pitch could influence performance on it].
"Sometimes it takes someone like Stu to come in from the outside and realise that."