The year of the Lion?

England's Mark Cueto believes 2009 could be the year that the Lions return to winning ways. [more]

The year of the Lion?

England’s Mark Cueto believes 2009 could be the year that the Lions return to winning ways.

The 29-year-old missed out on selection for the original touring party four years ago but was called up to the squad before departure after Iain Balshaw was ruled out through injury.

The Sale flyer went on to make five appearances in Lions colours, scoring three tries and featuring in the Test XV for the final international against the All Blacks in Auckland.

Cueto’s chances of making the squad this time around appeared to be limited prior to the start of the season but since then he has regularly impressed on the domestic scene and won a recall to the England ranks for the first time since the 2007 World Cup Final.

Commanding performances during this year’s Six Nations, in which he was one of England’s most-consistent players, have seen his stock rise once more in the build up to the Lions’ tour of South Africa later this summer.

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And if he does make the plane in less than two months time, Cueto believes he could be part of Lions party capable of banishing the blues of 2001 and 2005.

"The Home Nations have been playing some good rugby," Cueto told BBC Radio Stoke.

"With players in form, I think it could be the Lions’ year.

"It’s always going to be difficult for a Lions tour to go away, to gel and bond so quickly and beat an established international team that have been used to playing with each other.

"I get this feeling that this year could be the year."

Like so many others across Britain and Ireland, Cueto would love to be involved with the Lions in May, June and July. His recent return to the international fray has only heightened his appetite and the Workington-born wing admits he is desperate to test himself on the biggest stage once more.

"Everybody who played in the Six Nations is dreaming of being selected, and I’m no different, " added Cueto.
 
"Playing for England is special, but playing for the Lions means you’re at the next level."

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