- England wing Mark Cueto chats to RFUtv about his enforced spell on the sidelines
- Longest spell off a rugby field has left 50-cap star raring to go in pre-season
While admitting he will never be able to look on his end-of-season ban from rugby positively, Mark Cueto says the extended time off has increased his appetite for the hard graft of pre-season training.
The Sale Sharks wing was suspended in April after pleading guilty to "making contact with the eye or eye area" of Northampton Saints’ Christian Day during an Aviva Premiership clash.
Cueto, who was exonerated by Day after the event, told RFUtv that the benefits to his game were two-fold ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
"Because of the nature of the ban it’s difficult to now reflect and talk of it in a positive way,” he said.
"However, that time off did allow me to get my knee cleaned out which needed to be done. It was a niggling injury that could’ve potentially got worse.
"Also, over pretty much the last nine years I don’t think I’ve had more than two weeks off in the summer and sometimes you don’t have enough time to get that hunger back.
"I knew I had the time and, having spoken to the medical guys here, it was ‘take advantage of the situation’. Having four or five weeks of doing nothing was one of the longest spells of my career, so by the time came round to pre-season I was raring to go."
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Cueto has started the last 26 Tests for England – an uninterrupted spell stretching back to the 2009 RBS 6 Nations – which puts him in a good position to assess the side’s progress.
The 50-cap star believes England have progressed since the stunning Test victory over Australia in Sydney last summer and pinpoints the lessons learnt from painful defeats to South Africa and Ireland.
"It’s been, on the whole, a positive 12 months, starting from the all that time ago with the win in Sydney,” he said.
"And more recently with the 6 Nations, obviously as a group we were massively disappointed not to finish it off and get the Grand Slam, but ultimately we won a 6 Nations and that’s the first time England have done it for eight years.
"We’ve had two pretty big defeats in the last 12 months, Ireland being one then probably the South Africa game in the autumn and they were two quite similar defeats in the way we got beaten. We’re in a good place, we’ve got a talented group of players but we also know there’s plenty to work on."