Former England captain Will Carling and Irish great Brian O’Driscoll earlier weighed into the debate, saying Burgess was a risk, and Ashton, like Burgess a rugby league convert, added his voice to that argument.
“Sam’s won a Grand Final in Australia, he’s played England rugby league, so he has that experience,” Ashton said on Tuesday in a new column for the Daily Telegraph.
“Sam’s going to be a really good (union) player. If he’s had enough time is another question. I’m not sure he’s had enough time to play at 12 at the level that’s required.
“He can do what we’ve seen him do against France the other day. He’ll smash people and he’ll run all day. But it’s so different to knowing, without having to think, about your job in the team. It’s so different to smashing someone when they run at you.”
Ashton, a 2011 Rugby World Cup joint leading try-scorer with six, said Burgess needs time to learn to be in the right places and to get his hands on the ball at the right time.
“That’s not something I’m convinced he’s had enough time to do just yet,” the Saracen wing said. “I definitely think he will be an England player, forwards or backs. I’m just not sure on what time scale.”
Burgess won only his second cap in England’s 23-11 victory against Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday, yet England coach Stuart Lancaster has pinned his faith on the 1.96 metre Yorkshireman.
Lancaster’s first-choice midfield partnership is likely to be Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph, but Burgess is being lined up as an impact replacement.
Carling, capped 72 times by England, last month said he felt sorry for Burgess being put in this position.
“I’m in awe of Sam as a rugby league player, but there is no one that I have spoken to who I respect — ex-players, coaches — who thinks he’s ready,” the former centre said.
“I don’t understand what the rush is and it’s unfair on him. I feel sorry for him. If he wants to make it in union, there’s plenty of time.”
Burgess said last week that the debate around his inclusion would not faze him.
“I’ve spoken to Will — he got in touch after he made his comments,” Burgess said.
“Will’s just passionate about England. He has his opinion and is entitled to them. I just think you should never take comments personally.
“It doesn’t affect me as a player, I believe in myself and the people around me. I understand it’s all part of the process. I knew this kind of thing would come around. I was already well prepared for it. As a player I feel ready.”
England are in the toughest World Cup pool with Australia, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay; and kick off their campaign, and the tournament, against the Fijians at Twickenham on Sept. 18.
(Writing by Ossian Shine; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)