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The most prolific winger in Premiership history has announced his retirement

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Wednesday Apr 12, 2023

After an 18-year career playing both rugby union and rugby league professionally, Chris Ashton has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2022/23 season. Ashton currently plays on the wing for the Leicester Tigers, having joined them during the 2021/22 season, and has made 25 appearances for the club.

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Before joining the Tigers, Ashton played for several other clubs, including Wigan Warriors (rugby league), Northampton Saints, Saracens, Toulon, Sale Sharks, Harlequins, and Worcester Warriors (rugby union). He has also represented England in both codes and played for the Barbarians, famously scoring a hattrick against England in 2018.

Ashton is one of the most successful try-scorers in the history of rugby union, holding the record for the most tries scored in the Gallagher Premiership (98) and the Heineken Champions Cup (41). He has won three Premierships, two Heineken Champions Cups, and one European Challenge Cup during his career.

Ashton began his professional career in 2005 with Wigan, scoring two tries in his debut as an 18-year-old. He then swapped league for union as he went on to play for Northampton for five seasons, followed by a five-year stint with Saracens, where he was part of two Premiership and one European Cup winning campaigns.

In 2017, Ashton moved to Toulon for one season, where he broke the record for tries scored in a single season with 24 tries in 23 appearances. He returned to England in 2018 to join Sale before playing for Harlequins and Worcester Warriors, and eventually joining the Leicester Tigers in February 2022.

During his time at the Tigers, Ashton has scored 10 tries in 25 appearances and started on the wing in the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership Final, which the Tigers won against his former club, Saracens, at Twickenham. He represented England Rugby on 44 occasions, scoring 20 international tries.

The 36-year-old has explained his reasonings for retirement.

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“I have just felt, this season, that my body is not able to do what I want it do anymore.”

“I am still enjoying the game, enjoying being in and around the team and the game every day, but if I am not able to keep the standards that I expect of myself, then it is the right time for me to retire.

“I am content with the decision and, honestly, I definitely wouldn’t have been had I not been able to come to Leicester Tigers, get back into the game and finish my career on my terms.

“It is the right time for me, I know that, and I am happy in making this decision at this time.”

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“I still can’t believe all that I have been able to do and all that rugby union has given me.”

“This game has opened the world to me, taken me to places I never thought I would have been or experienced, and I am so grateful for that.

“Playing for Wigan Warriors was my dream growing up, that was all I wanted to do, and I know rugby league would have given me so much too, but it is amazing to look back and see what I have been able to do because of both codes and the groups and places I have been a part of in my career.

“I am honoured to have done what I have done, for the clubs I have played for and to represent my country in two codes.”

“My time at Leicester Tigers gave me something I thought I might have lost, which was just to play the game again and play until I knew I could keep playing and contributing.

“To be a part of this group, at this club, has been special. This is a unique group of players and unique environment, in the way that they are so resilient, want to do the hard work and have such a no nonsense approach.

“I am grateful to have been able to experience this in my final years and to have been a part of this group of players and people at a club like Leicester Tigers.”

Ashton also mentioned the support he has received from his family.

“I know I wouldn’t be where I am today or achieved all that I have without the support from the very beginning from my family, in my mum, dad, brother and sisters, as well as all that my wife, Melissa, and children, Ava and Isaac, have given to me.

“I have been fortunate to have shared in so many special moments with all of my family throughout the years and especially, in these later years, the chance to share in even more with my kids.”

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