Northampton Saints - West impressed by England winger’s attitude

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Dorian West says Saints have been really pleased with Chris Ashton in training since the England star returned to the club.

Ashton walked out on training after being dropped for the Heineken Cup clash against Munster in January following his indifferent form since returning from the World Cup.

He has been playing in the Six Nations ever since, and there was speculation that his row with Saints boss Jim Mallinder would mean he would not play again for the club.

Especially as the next day Ashton confirmed he will be leaving Franklin’s Gardens at the end of the season to join Saracens.

But Ashton has since apologised, admitting he was in the wrong and has talked to Mallinder during the Six Nations, in which he has started every game.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster had no problems with Ashton’s attitude, and forwards coach West says he has come back in good form.

“We have been really pleased with Ashton,” said West. “He’s turned up, he has been positive, he has had an input in the meetings and he has trained really well, so he has held his hand up for selection this weekend.”

Ashton has not scored a try this year, with his last touchdown coming at Welford Road in the east midlands derby defeat against Leicester in December.

He was suspended for four weeks for pulling Alesana Tuilagi’s hair after that game, and with his England commitments as well it means Ashton has played just nine times for Saints this season.

He will be eager to make an impact before leaving the club, but West says he has strong competition with Vasily Artemyev and Scott Armstrong the incumbents at the moment, while Jamie Elliott is close to returning from a hamstring problem.

“Some of those other lads have played really well,” said West. “Vasily and Scott Armstrong, Digger and Noah, when he has been playing, have been pretty good.

“We have got some big decisions to make. And Jamie is not far off, he has been out running, he is more or less available for selection as well.”

Meanwhile, Dylan Hartley’s disciplinary hearing into an allegation that he bit the finger of Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris will be held in London next Tuesday.

Hartley, 25, was cited following an alleged incident in the first half of England’s 30-9 RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland at Twickenham last Saturday.

The Saints captain remains suspended until he appears before the independent Six Nations disciplinary committee, which will be chaired by Roger Morris.

A biting offence carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension, with 18 weeks for mid-range and 24-plus weeks at the top end according to the IRB.

If Hartley is banned, he could be ruled out of England’s three-Test tour to South Africa in June.