Sale Sharks winger Chris Ashton admitted that he was surprised and thrilled by England coach Eddie Jones naming him in the pre-season training squad ahead of autumn internationals.
Ashton last played for England in 2014 and this was also the first time he was called up to the squad since 2016.
Having frustrated about not getting a chance at the international level, the 31-year-old made a move to France where he represented French club Toulon in the last season of Top 14 but has managed to seek an early release from the contract and has been signed by Gallagher Premiership Sale Sharks for the upcoming season.
“It’s a strange feeling,” Ashton told the BBC.
“I feel like a new player and I’m happy to be back in the group.
“I wasn’t supposed to be back in England. When I went to France I thought that was it for me and I could spend the next few years in France enjoying rugby.
“The season went really well and I enjoyed it, but the more the year went on the more I wanted to be back here and back in this environment.”
Ashton had a terrific season for Toulon where he broke the try-scoring record with 24 touchdowns from 23 games and also scored a hat-trick against England when he featured for Barbarians at Twickenham earlier this year.
“I missed playing for England,” he said.
“It was tough to watch being in England, and I hoped when I moved to France that would go away but it didn’t. I always wanted to be part of it.
“I’m the kind of person that has to learn for myself. I do things and then learn later. I made the decision I wanted to go and try and I did that.
“It’s always bothered me not being involved, but I hope I’ve got a couple of good years left yet at it.”
With the World Cup around the corner, Jones will be relieved to have Ashton at his best but the former Saracens wing insisted on focussing on the present.
“The day the World Cup isn’t on my mind is probably the day I stop playing,” he said.
“It’s what everyone wants to win and being in France and seeing that opportunity go by would’ve been tough for me to take. I couldn’t accept that.
“Even if I don’t get in and I don’t play for England, at least I’m giving myself the best opportunity.”