Saracens glad to have Ashton back after ban


London (AFP)

Saracens coach Mark McCall is looking forward to having "X-factor" wing Chris Ashton back in the side following the England international's 10-week ban.

Ashton is set to return for the English Premiership leaders in their match away to Bath on Friday.

The 29-year-old hasn't played competitive rugby union since January, having been suspended for making contact with the eye area of Ulster's Luke Marshall during a European Champions Cup pool victory over the Irish province in January.

Ashton's subsequent appeal against the ban was rejected.

He had been on course for an England recall under new head coach Eddie Jones but, with bans in rugby union applying across all matches, those hopes were dashed.

Ashton has scored 19 tries in 39 England appearances but has not played Test rugby since June 2014.

However, an international recall could come if he is selected for England's three Tests against Australia in June.

"Chris's attitude has been really good," said McCall ahead of the Bath encounter.

"He has worked hard on his game throughout the 10-week period, and I know he is itching to get out there playing once again.

"He was in great form before the suspension came along, and he is going to provide something different to our team with his X-factor.

"We are looking forward to seeing him back out on the pitch on Friday."

Ashton is set to replace rested United States international Chris Wyles.

Meanwhile McCall plans to again field all five of the club's England stars -- Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola, George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola -- who started the Grand Slam-winning victory over France after the quintet appeared in last weekend's 36-18 win over title rivals Exeter.

Bath are 25 points adrift of Saracens and ninth in the 12-team Premiership but McCall said: "Bath are in good form, having picked up some results as of late.

"We know that they possess some very good players who are capable of winning big games."

Bath will also start with several England internationals in Dave Attwood, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and George Ford as they aim for a third straight home win following victories over London Irish and Newcastle.