Ashton keeps his head as England finish in style at rugby Six Nations
(AFP) - At the end of a Six Nations where many questioned whether he was the right man to coach England, Brian Ashton refused to get carried away by his side's 33-10 win over Ireland here at Twickenham.
Victory, England's first against Ireland in five attempts, combined with France's defeat against Grand Slam winners Wales, saw the World Cup finalists finish in a respectable second place, their best Six Nations placing since they completed a Grand Slam of their own in 2003.
But Ashton, just a day after Rugby Football Union (RFU) director of elite rugby Rob Andrew said a management change before England's two Tests in June away to New Zealand was "not something I would consider at this point," treated England's triumph in much the same way he'd endured their defeats against Wales and Scotland.
"Every time England play there's a massive weight on your shoulders. The pressure goes with the job," said the 61-year-old former Ireland coach.
"Winning one game does not mean any less pressure," Ashton, whose side were 13 points ahead in their opener before losing against Wales, added.
"The pressure just comes with the job. You can't hide away - the press is there every single game. But this solidifies one or two selections (for the tour of New Zealand), and it was a nice way to finish the tournament."
England's performance was notable for the full debut of Danny Cipriani, who turned in an assured display at outside-half after coming in for the dropped Jonny Wilkinson, the only man left out after the Calcutta Cup reverse.
The 20-year-old Wasps playmaker, who would have started the 15-9 defeat against Scotland had he not been seen coming out of a nightclub two days before the game, kicked three conversions and four penalties in a perfect seven out of seven goalkicking haul of 18 points on Saturday.
"That was a team performance, not a one-man band - and one of the best team performances I've seen in a long time," said Ashton.
"Danny did really well, though. You're not sure until they come out whether players can bring Premiership form into internationals, but for most of the game he did.
"He will be very pleased - and we are reasonably pleased as well! - but the guys around him helped enormously, so let's not go overboard."
"It will be a royal battle now. There are a number of good number 10s knocking around - and Jonny did well in the centre while he was out there."
Wilkinson who came on as a replacement for Toby Flood, said: "Danny played brilliantly but I wouldn't describe it as a battle royal because that sounds like the two of us slugging it out in a ring.
"The truth is there are some great fly-halves back in the Premiership and we are all trying to raise the bar."
Ashton added: "We put into operation all the things we said we were going to, and that's the first time in the tournament we've managed that."
But Ashton said there was one aspect of England's performance which remained a concern. "It looks as though the players need a defeat to get them going. That's the biggest thing we have got to turn round."
Whether Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan gets the chance to restore his side's fortunes after a third defeat condemned them to a fourth-placed finish - their worst placing since 1999, remains to be seen.
The 49-year-old, who has been in charge since 2002, was already under pressure and is now bound to face renewed calls to be sacked.
"My own position is that at this moment in time I'm not making any decisions about anything," O'Sullivan said ahead of Ireland's tour of New Zealand and Australia in June.
"What we always do after every major tournament is meet with the Irish Rugby Football Union to discuss the bigger picture and that will happen again. After that I suppose we'll know what we're doing going forward.
"Absolutely I believe I am the right man to lead Irish rugby. I love this job and I've always given it 110 percent. If I thought I couldn't give 110 percent I'd be the first to admit that.
"But I intend to give it everything I have as long as I'm doing it."