But he was summoned to Twickenham last week as injury cover, and now goes straight into the team alongside back-row colleagues James Haskell and Lewis Moody.
Harlequins number eight Nick Easter, a regular selection during the Ashton regime, has been battling to overcome a knee injury.
Narraway's Gloucester colleague Iain Balshaw is recalled at full-back for his first England appearance since last summer's tour of South Africa.
It means no place for Mathew Tait - England's best player in the World Cup final three months ago - either at full-back or outside centre, where Gloucester's Mike Tindall returns.
Tait had a poor game in the number 15 shirt for Newcastle against Guinness Premiership opponents Leicester last Saturday, and he looks to have paid a hefty price. He does not even feature among the replacements.
Elsewhere, Gloucester wing and former Bradford Bulls rugby league star Lesley Vainikolo is named on the bench alongside fellow uncapped back, Wasps fly-half Danny Cipriani.
Tonga-born powerhouse Vainikolo, a New Zealand rugby league international, qualifies for England on residency. He is in his first season of union since switching codes.
Narraway, who came through Worcester's academy system before joining Gloucester, has proved a driving force behind his club's rise to the Premiership summit and clinching of a Heineken Cup quarter-final place this term.
And he now has a golden opportunity to help launch a new England back-row era following the recent Test retirements of 2003 World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio and Martin Corry.
Narraway is among seven players selected for the RBS 6 Nations kick-off who did not start England's last game, the World Cup final against South Africa in Paris on October 20.
The others are Balshaw, Tindall, his midfield partner Toby Flood, wing David Strettle, Bath lock Steve Borthwick and rising Wasps star Haskell.
In the absence of Josh Lewsey, who failed to make England's squad, Tait and Mark Cueto were thought to be the leading full-back candidates.
But Ashton, a committed Balshaw supporter, has handed the 28-year-old Lancastrian another opportunity to relaunch an international career that began eight years and 30 caps ago.
Balshaw is joined in the back three by prolific try-scoring wings Paul Sackey, a World Cup star who has recovered from mumps, and Strettle.
Teams for England versus Wales, RBS 6 Nations Championship at Twickenham on Saturday:
I Balshaw (Gloucester); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tindall (Gloucester), T Flood (Newcastle), D Strettle (Harlequins); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath), J Haskell (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester), L Narraway (Gloucester).
Replacements: L Mears (Bath), M Stevens (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), T Rees (Wasps), R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), D Cipriani (Wasps), L Vainikolo (Gloucester).