Cueto determined on return

Mark Cueto spent a day learning how to be a cocktail waiter in London last month as part of a corporate rugby promotion. [more]

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Mark Cueto spent a day learning how to be a cocktail waiter in London last month as part of a corporate rugby promotion.

On Saturday the Sale wing returns after injury to an England side shaken and stirred by seven straight defeats, including a battering by New Zealand and humiliation at the hands of Argentina in the past fortnight.

You could be forgiven for thinking it was no bad time to have been nursing a troublesome ankle problem.

But Cueto, one of seven changes head coach Andy Robinson has made to try to save his job against South Africa this weekend, disagrees.

"I’m itching to play," he said. "I’m a nightmare when I’m injured, a terrible watcher. And it has been disappointing and frustrating.

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"But the players are too good individually and collectively to continue on this bad run of form.

"We have to shut the book on the last couple of weeks and look to move forward, starting with a win on Saturday."

There is no doubt Cueto will bring composure and firepower to an England side which has lost its way under Robinson just 10 months before the start of their World Cup defence.

Cueto is a scoring machine. He has 11 tries in 16 Tests for England, figures which would have been more impressive if he had not been overlooked inexplicably during the Clive Woodward era.

Last season he equalled a record set by Wasps’ Chris Oti in 1991 by scoring tries in eight consecutive matches.

His laid-back demeanour is also a calming influence and while Robinson and his fellow coaches were fielding the flak of a troubled week, Cueto preferred a more studied analysis.

He added: "None of these lads hide in their shells. They take the criticism and the knocks on the chin. We’ve got to learn from it.

"Cozza (Martin Corry) was the first to stick his hand up and say the players were to blame. There is only so much that Robbo and the other coaches can do.

"On a Saturday it’s down to the guys out on the pitch. We’ve just got to get out there and start again."

That means facing the route-one, in-your-face, always intimidating physical threat of South Africa, even if the side which faces England on Saturday is a pale shadow of the Springbok challenge they can expect to face at the World Cup in France.

Coach Jake White has left behind the nucleus of his World Cup team, preferring to bring over a developmental squad for the autumn internationals.

Hence the drubbing suffered at the hands of Ireland last weekend. Inadvertently, White might just have saved Robinson’s job as there is every chance England will return to winning ways because of his youthful experiment.

But only if fly-half Charlie Hodgson, substituted early in the second half last week, can patch up his shattered confidence and return to a semblance of his best form.

His kicking and positional play-making were abysmal against Argentina.

Cueto, however, is backing his big pal and Sale team-mate.

He said: "Obviously Charlie was disappointed as anyone is when they come off the field. You never want to be subbed.

"I spoke to Charlie and he was disappointed but so was everyone else. He wasn’t the only player who things weren’t going right for.

"In situations like that players just want to get out on the field again as soon as they can. A month can seem as long as a year. You just want to get back out and prove a point.

"His form at Sale has been unbelievable. It’s just a case of doing that on the big occasion."

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