TOM Ashton has returned to Southend Rugby Club.

The versatile 31-year-old, who can play at fly-half or centre, spent last season with Rochford Hundred.

However, he has now opted to head back to National League Two South with the Saxons.

“I’m still friendly with a lot of the boys from Southend and the management made it clear they wanted me to contribute to the club’s cause,” said Ashton, 31.

“I was only away for one season but I wasn’t sure Rochford had the same ambition that I had going forward and having experienced the National Leagues before, I know nothing else comes close to that.”

Ashton, who started his career with Rochford, bagged an impressive 350 points in 27 games for the London Two North side last season.

And he is now targeting more success with Southend, who are looking to improve on their eighth-placed finish from last season.

“As an individual I want to consistently perform at a high level and add something to the group of players they already have, which will help us have a good season as a team,” said Ashton.

“Last season the team finished eighth but were competing near the top coming in to the Christmas period.

“With that in mind I think a successful year this season would be for us to still be competing towards the top at the end of the year.”

With that in mind, Southend's pre-season work is already underway.

The squad are being put through their paces at Warners Bridge and will soon be taking on Ampthill, Harrogate and Rosslyn Park in a trio of friendlies before the league season starts at the beginning of September.

And Ashton is pleased with how preparations have been going.

“Pre-season is going really well at this stage,” said Ashton.

“I feel in good shape already and the coaching team are working hard to make us all ready for the long season ahead.”