New model Cueto ready for long run

Christmas is naturally a time for taking stock, and for Mark Cueto doubly so. Today is the Sale and England wing's birthday, though he will barely have a chance to blow the 25 candles out on the cake before eschewing his parents' company at their house near Crewe, and setting off for afternoon training. It's a captain's run at the club and Cueto, though revelling in life on every front, is not about to keep Jason Robinson waiting.

"Things couldn't be going much better for me," said Cueto, and the justification for the sentiment is not difficult to identify. Last month he won his first three caps for his country, helping himself to four tries in the autumn series against Canada, South Africa and Australia at Twickenham. An unfortunate knock-on effect of the international window was to slam the door temporarily on Sale's fine start to the campaign, with the Mancunian side parted from the heart of their team and suffering three successive defeats as a result. But Cueto's contribution, when not on international duty, has been exemplary: seven tries in 10 appearances and, overall, a remarkable 49 tries in 95 matches since his senior debut in August 2001.

"The biggest improvement in my game this season has been getting up in the line to cut down the opposition's space," Cueto explained. "It is not that I'm more aggressive than before. It's just a change of approach, which all the Sale wingers have been using. You can give away easy territory to opponents down that five- or 10-metre wing channel. We're making sure we don't do that, and I guess it's one of the reasons I've had the recognition from England."

Sale host Bath in the Premiership tomorrow, with the teams third and fourth in the table respectively. Sale's advantage in points difference and bonus points reflects the commitment to attack under their coach, Philippe Saint-André. As a former wing and Test captain, the Frenchman has been good news for Cueto since arriving from Bourgoin last spring.

"Everyone here loved [the previous coaches] Jim Mallinder and Steve Diamond," said Cueto. "But it's been brilliant having the new challenge with Philippe and [forwards coach] Kingsley Jones. One thing we were keen to keep was the way Sale played, with backs who like to run with the ball. Philippe enjoys that style, and he's given me key pointers as an individual, too."

If Cueto fails to register his 50th Sale try tomorrow there are plenty more chances in January, with Premiership fixtures against Newcastle and Northampton either side of a European Challenge Cup double-header against Agen, and a Powergen Cup quarter-final rematch with Bath.

Then it's on, possibly, to Cueto's first Six Nations' Championship, not that he is taking anything for granted. "England is always in the back of your mind, but the long-term policy I've had with myself is to concentrate on club form. As soon as you lose focus and think about internationals that aren't upon you yet, you can quickly get on a slippery slope."

The Agen tie is likely to pit Cueto against Rupeni Caucaunibuca, the Fijian sensation of the last World Cup. The pair hail from opposite ends of the earth - the Englishman was born in Cumbria, with his name deriving from some Spanish ancestry - but share characteristics: burning pace and a wicked sidestep, a barrel of a chest if brute force is called for, and of course a simple love of scoring tries.

Cueto played mini-rugby between the ages of five and eight, then concentrated on football and had to be reintroduced to the oval ball at 17. In the third of three years spent with Altrincham Kersal, he would turn out in North West One on a Saturday and for Sale's Under-21s in midweek. "I needed game time - the more I played, the better it was for me." To judge by the messages of goodwill on the Altrincham Kersal website, Cueto's old cohorts are delighted at how he has edged past the likes of Ben Cohen, Dan Luger and the injured James Simpson-Daniel into the national team.

For a while, it seemed Cueto might not make the ultimate breakthrough. England went on a mini-tour to Argentina in June 2002, and although Cueto scored a try in the midweek team which lost narrowly to the Pumas' A side, he returned from the long trip south a long way off full selection.

"It was at the end of my first professional season," he recalled. "I was a raw player and there was a lot for me to learn. It wasn't that I didn't know to tackle, but my positioning was letting me down."

His positioning was spot-on for the try from Henry Paul's cross-kick against South Africa which thrilled Twickenham a few weeks ago. "It felt like I was waving my arms for ages," Cueto said with a chuckle. "Thankfully I caught Henry's eye somehow."

Sale and England will hope Cueto the birthday boy continues to catch the eye in 2005.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories