SOANE TONGA’UIHA believes if Chris Ashton’s decision on his future is based purely on rugby then the giant Tongan can’t see why his team-mate would leave Saints.
Ashton is out of contract at the end of the season and Premiership champions Saracens are reportedly lining up a bid for the England winger.
Tonga’uiha was involved in a tug-of-war between Saracens and Saints last year. Saracens announced the signing of the loosehead before the 29-year-old changed his mind, turning down the big money offer to sign a new deal with Saints.
Saracens are, according to the national media, reportedly offering Ashton between £250,000 and £300,000, though Ashton is not allowed to talk to clubs until January 1.
Having been through the same agonising decision Tonga’uiha feels Ashton should look at his long term rugby future and at what Northampton have done for his game since switching from rugby league giants Wigan Warriors in 2007.
Tonga’uiha, who is being given a testimonial this season after six years at the club, said: “If it is a rugby decision I can’t see why he would want to leave Saints. Saracens have got a lot of good wingers, like (Chris) Wyles, (David) Strettle and (James) Short.
“They have got a big squad and manage to rotate it very well. He has got a place in the side here and has done well here.”
Ashton is currently suspended after receiving a four-week ban for pulling Alesana Tuilagi’s hair in the east midlands derby.
Talks with Ashton started in the summer though chairman Leon Barwell said this week that the two parties haven’t spoken about “money” yet.
The 24-year-old has scored 90 tries in 104 appearances for Saints and Tonga’uiha would love to him continue that scoring rate at Franklin’s Gardens.
“I would like Ashy to stay,” said Tonga’uiha. “Myself and Ashy are different. I see myself as quite loyal and never wanted to leave the Saints in the first place.
“Whether Ashy feels like that or whether he feels he wants a change I don’t know, everybody is different.
“Some players like to have a change of venue or their training routine, whereas I didn’t as I was happy here with the fans and the coaching staff.”