Ashton's backing for Mears
Bristol hooker handed chance to make the No.2 jersey his own
Last Updated: 05/03/08 10:30am
Mears: Given his chance
England hooker Lee Mears has been given the chance to make the No.2 jersey his own after receiving the backing of coach Brian Ashton.
Mears has been given the nod to take on Scotland at Murrayfield ahead of west country rival Mark Regan.
And although Ashton has refused to rule out another comeback for the 36-year-old Regan, who was labelled a "clown" by France coach Marc Lievremont following England's 24-13 victory, he believes the time has come for Mears.
Ashton said: "It is a great opportunity for him.
"He has waited a long time, and I am sure he will take this opportunity with both hands.
"He's played extremely well for Bath this season. He has got a very rounded game, and we hope he will show it at the weekend.
"I don't think Mark Regan has recovered his World Cup form. He had a fantastic tournament, and was one of the motivating factors there in terms of going through to the final.
"I've had a very mature, frank conversation with him - he is a friend as well a player."
While Regan has struggled to pin down a starting spot for Bristol this season, Mears has been a key man in Bath's push for the title.
However Mears is the first to admit that Regan has taught him a lot.
"Ronnie [Regan] is a tough competitor, and I know he won't lie down," he said.
"I have learnt a lot from him over the years, and the competitor in Ronnie is something I would like to have in my game."