Cueto: ‘Best is yet to come for England’

Mark Cueto

After closing the curtain on a successful Six Nations campaign with a brutal loss against Ireland, England trudged off the Aviva pitch broken yet triumphant. But wing Mark Cueto was not satisfied.

“It was a very bittersweet moment with a lot of mixed emotions. We were happy to have won (the Six Nations) but obviously we were disappointed with the performance. To lose like that was massively frustrating,” reflected Cueto.

Of course there were plenty of positives to take from England’s Six Nations campaign – not least for Cueto himself, who was part of an extremely effective back three unit. But that the Sale winger and the rest of his teammates left the field with such disdain for their performance, taking little consolation from their tournament triumph, shows just how far this group have travelled, in both experience and mind.

With the Rugby World Cup fast approaching, and taking stock of their past performances before the Johnson reign came into full swing, England could scarcely have hoped to be better placed. Indeed this is certainly a view supported by Cueto, himself a member of the side that narrowly lost out to South Africa in the final of the 2007 World Cup.

“The last experience was unbelievable, but now I’m just really looking forward to the next. Playing with the likes of (Ben) Foden and (Chris) Ashton; they just have so much enthusiasm which really rubs off,” began Cueto, who pondered for a second before offering a ringing endorsement of his current teammates.

“In my time with England I’ve played with some truly world class players – guys like Jason Robinson, Matt Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio. Although currently, and it’s crazy to say, I actually feel like I’m playing in a better team with individuals just as talented.”

As one of the select few England players with experience of a World Cup, Cueto’s words will hold weight. “The most successful sides build continuity – both on the field and off the field – and I feel that’s what we’re doing here,” said the winger.

At 31 years of age, Cueto, alongside Mike Tindall, performs an elder statesmen role in the talented back division. Northampton wing Chris Ashton has rocketed into international rugby with impressive showings backed up by well-taken tries, while Ben Foden has also confirmed his place in the international rugby elite. Cueto’s well-rounded game, possessing both kicking and defensive ability of which an inside centre would be proud, provides a natural complement to the two young rogues.

However, with David Strettle in the midst of a rare period of both form and fitness and the merits of James Simpson-Daniel coming to the fore once again, Cueto faces a battle to retain the shirt he has held so consistently of late. Unsurprisingly, the Manchester-born wing welcomes the challenge.

“There are always guys coming up behind so it’s nothing new for me,” began Cueto. “I feel like I’m in a position where I’m not really fighting for a spot but you’re never not under pressure. It’s good for the team as a whole to have competition.”

Cueto’s end of season plans with Sale were hampered after he was banned for nine weeks following a charge of “making contact with the eye or eye area” of Northampton’s Christian Day.

“I’d actually had an issue with my knee and that ban allowed me some time to get it sorted,” said Cueto. “Without the time off, I’m not sure where I’d be at with regards to recovery. It’s all tidied up now and behind me and the knee is feeling good. I’ll be with England in mini-camps before we all get back together as a whole squad at the back end of June. I can’t wait.”

In a sport where a strong mentality and experience is crucial, a player of Cueto’s calibre is worth his weight in gold. England will be grateful to have him fully firing when the World Cup begins in September.

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15 thoughts on “Cueto: ‘Best is yet to come for England’

  1. no secret that it isCueto’s kicking and defence that keeps him in the team as he couldnt finish a Mr Men book.

    Id like to see Monye back in

  2. Not sure about Monye – he’s always upright in contact and often gets turned over if he’s caught. Sinbad and Strettle ahead of him for me, and possibly even Charlie Sharples.

    Cueto is the sort of player Johnno will want in the side for the RWC where mistakes are costly.

  3. Ive only just forgiven Monye for not scoting against the Saffers on 09.

    he has really improved since then and has the attack and defence which Cueto and Sinbad dont have.

    id like to see sharples have a go, hes stronger than his wee frame suggests, a bit like Foden.

    1. Indeed, big fan of Sharples. He should be playing for the Saxons this weekend, and will need to be strong against Tonga.

      I doubt he’ll make the World Cup squad though unfortunately. Matt Smasherhan probably preferred by Johnno!

  4. Sharples probably isnt quite ready yet and MJ certainly won’t chance it unless all the others are injured!

  5. Monye’s attacking game is better than Sinbad’s! You must be joking.

    (I almost believe this to be a prescribed attempt to get me to blog)

  6. Kemlo – are you a sinbad fan?

    I meant that sinbad doesnt have the all round game that Ugo has.

    I want to be a sinbad fan but why does he go and miss a simple tackle on visser in front of MJ?
    hes not a kid any more!

  7. Monye should never be in an England shirt again. Those butchered tries cost us against SA and the man just has raw pace. No rugby brain. Yes Cueto isn’t as razor sharp as he used to be but defensively sound and doesn’t give much away. He can also cover centre and FB. These sorts of players get you through a world cup not ones made of glass like Strettle or JSD.

    Sharples for the future though.

  8. Strettle cant defend and his finishing at International level has been poor (bar his try in the Ireland 6N game in 2007). He has an excellent abilty to beat the first few defenders but I dont think thats enough for the World Cup. Sinbad cant defend either, although he can score some amazing tries. I dont think MJ will take him either but I think he’s a better all rounder than Streetle.

    I’d keep Cueto but agree that Sharples could be one for next year onwards.

  9. I think Cueto, Ashton, Foden is still England’s best combo in the back three. It’s fairly open for the other squad members I’d say, and it will be interesting to see who is in the mix when Johnno names his preliminary squad (June 20th).

    Monye, Strettle, Sinbad, Armitage, Abendanon, Banahan, maybe even Tait all in with a shout, and Sharples if he does well for the Saxons over the next couple of weeks.

  10. Despite his obvious frailty of hitting contact too high (should have been coached out of him by now) Monye poses the greatest threat of the “squad” wingers. Plus, when he’s really up for a match and fully fit his cover defence is outstanding. Might save/win us a match late on in the WC.

  11. That’s a good point – what’s with the demise of Matty Tait? Can anyone shed any light? Form? Injuries? He looked the goods in his early years didn’t he?

    1. matt – tait dislocated his shoulder last season and is on way back. hell be playing @ liecester next season i think

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