Is Ashton the Real Villain?

Will Northampton Saints winger Chris Ashton be the hero or the villain in Cardiff today?

That is one question being pondered ahead of today's European Rugby Heineken Cup final between his East Midlands outfit and Irish opponents, Leinster.

Whilst much has been said during the week about the three-punch combo of Tiger's centre Manu Tuilagi in the Aviva Premiership semi-final last weekend between Leicester and Northampton, was it in fact Chris Ashton who was the real villain for his side?

Not for any misdemeanour as such, though it was obvious that the "push" (as mentioned by some papers) which sparked Tuilagi's rampage also included a knee in the 20 year old's back, but for his failed interception attempt which led to Leicester's winning score.

Ashton's failed attempt to intercept Thomas Waldrom's pass to George Chuter allowed the quick handling by Leicester that put Alesana Tuilagi in the corner for a game-winning try.

If Ashton had held his line instead and tackled his man, things may have been different.

So whilst Ashton is undoubtedly a great attacking player, if he can be starved of ball, as Leicester did last week, will he get frustrated and make defensive errors again?.

tIf he does that today in Cardiff, Leinster will benefit, and the likelihood is the Irish team will follow the English champions' example and limit the opportunities for the Saints back three.

This will be one of Ashton's biggest tests on the biggest of stages.

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