Harlequins’ Mike Brown has been one of the first names on the England teamsheet for the best part of four years, but Saracens wing Chris Ashton insists he should now be looking over his shoulder ahead of their summer tour.
Eddie Jones’ men are set to tour Australia in June, with the Rugby World Cup finalists set to be an acid test for the newly crowned Grand Slam champions.
But Ashton — who himself is hoping to be brought in from the international wilderness for the tour after being banned for the Six Nations — is adamant Saracens teammate Alex Goode is the fullback in form in Premiership Rugby.
A veteran of 48 Tests, 30-year-old Brown’s experience and standout performances over the last six months in an England shirt should stand him in good stead for the tour Down Under.
But with champions Saracens looking ominous at the top of the Premiership once again, Ashton believes Goode has the chance to make the No.15 jersey his during the run-in.
“Goodey’s definitely been the best fullback in the Premiership this season — and by a long way too,” he said.
“He’s come back from England duty a couple of times and helped us win games pretty much on his own.
“Without him, with some of the other England guys being away, we’d have struggled to win those games.
“His footwork is unbelievable, and he can distribute the ball as well as most fly-halves can which is always going to be an advantage.
“His versatility between playing No.10 and No.15 is very hard to come by, and he’s definitely at the top of his game at the minute.
“I don’t really know what else he can do but I’m sure it won’t be long before he works his way in. The experience that Mike has will count against him a bit, but if he keeps going the way he is then he has to be there.
“It will be a good battle against Quins in a couple of weeks when we play them, and interesting to see who comes out on top between the two of them.”
Brown’s Harlequins are next up for Saracens in the league following their European clash against Northampton Saints, and with Worcester Warriors and Newcastle Falcons to follow they are well-placed to secure a home semi-final spot.
But Ashton knows how important that clash with Quins will be, with maintaining their momentum vital at this stage of the season.
He said: “Everything is going well at the moment but as soon as you lose a game everything can change pretty quickly.
“So it’s really important we win these games against Harlequins, Newcastle and Worcester and keep our momentum going.
“The Quins game at Wembley is always a good event and obviously we really enjoy it every year. It’s fantastic to play in front of a big crowd and we’ve broken records the last few years.
“It’s a great day and one we’ll hope to remember.
“It’s always the way that a lot of teams have something to play for at this time of the year; whether it’s at the top, bottom, or middle of the table.
“Quins too still trying to get into the top four so there are no easy games, and it’s all to play for.”
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