Two years ago Martin Johnson’s England headed to Ireland in the penultimate weekend of the Six Nations, knowing a win in Dublin would hand them a first Grand Slam since 2003.
However, it all went wrong for England as Brian O’Driscoll and Tommy Bowe touched down to seal a comfortable win for the Irish.
England have started their Six Nations campaign with a 38-18 win against Scotland at Twickenham, with wing Ashton among the try scorers as he took his international total to 17, while Ireland ground out a surprise victory against Wales in Cardiff.
And Ashton insists Stuart Lancaster’s England side that head to Dublin this weekend are a completely different beast from two years ago.
“We will go there in a completely different relaxed mood,” said Ashton. “The Grand Slam game was tenser and quite a few young players at the time didn’t know what to expect.
“Everyone was quite uptight. The whole changing room was a pretty different mood that time.
“There was a lot of pressure on us and it was always going to be hard that week going over to Ireland. This week we are going to be going over off the back of two good wins.
“Because of what Stu has done, the environment that is around us is completely different. Everyone is on the same level. Before it wasn’t like that. The attitude of this team is 100 per cent different to what it was then as well.”
Ben Youngs, who started at scrum half in 2011 in Dublin, echoed Ashton’s comments.
“I can see what he means by that and he is exactly right,” he said.
“You can’t compare it to how it was back then. It’s a different style of rugby we are playing due to new philosophies, and just the atmosphere is different.
“That comes from guys like [Joe] Launchbury, [Mako] Vunipola, [Joe] Marler, all these guys that are young and enthusiastic. I am pretty much like them, I am only 23.
“I’m keen to learn and be the best I can be. When you have a group of players who are all striving for the same thing and want to be the best in their position it can be a real powerful thing.
“There is a group of young and enthusiastic [players], and everyone is a top bloke and wants to work hard.
“Everyone is on the same page as the coaches, and the coaches know how to get the most out of the players. That blend is making the guys perform each week.”
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