Rugby - Ashton earns defensive accolade

Chris Ashton was called many things when he was on England duty during the RBS 6 Nations but lycanthropic - the ability of a human to gain wolf-like qualities - was not one of them.

PA Sport
Rugby - Ashton earns defensive accolade
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Chris Ashton's defensive performance last weekend earned him a prized place on the Saracens 'Wolf Board'

Ashton appeared to be short of form in an England jersey and a couple of high-profile missed tackles led to questions being asked in some quarters about his defensive fortitude, but never at Saracens, where Ashton's defensive performance in last weekend's victory over Wasps earned him a prized place on the 'Wolf Board'.

Saracens' defence coach Paul Gustard developed the 'Wolf Pack' theme four years ago as he looked for a way of illustrating the qualities he demanded of his players, and he said: "I wanted to give a meaning behind it and a heartbeat and a soul. The Wolf Pack idea was something different and represented our mentality."

He added: "We have to hunt, we have to get people and when we get there we have to be savage. It epitomises everything. The Wolf Rating is the most sought after."

Gustard has ratings for tackle completions and for leg tackles but the Wolf Rating reflects the dominance of a tackle. Against Wasps, Steve Borthwick was top and Ashton second.

"A dominant tackle is a wolf. If not, it is a tackle," Gustard explained. "Against Wasps, Chris made a lot of tackles and every tackle that he made was a good collision. It is an incredible accolade.

"(The one that stands out was) when Wasps moved the ball, Chris spotted it and went for Christian Wade and caught him in their 22. We got a penalty shortly after.

"It was a wolf. I know it sounds bizarre but it works."

Gustard's wolf system, based on statistics he collects himself, is not new but the board, on a wall halfway down a staircase at Saracens' training ground, only went up during the Six Nations.

The Wolf Pack theme permeates the club. They see themselves as a wolf pack, the players have branded clothing and they were joined in a team meeting a fortnight ago by two wild wolves.

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