Sale Sharks winger Mark Cueto believes he still has a lot to offer his club, despite taking part in what he says will probably be his final season playing professional rugby.
The former England international stressed the important role senior players have in guiding the development of younger members of the team, and is hopeful of contributing towards a successful season for Sale.
Having earned 55 England caps and notching over 250 appearances for the Sharks, Cueto is well placed to comment on the importance of experience in the Sale dressing room.
Speaking to MM at their Carrington training base, the 34-year-old said: “There is obviously a senior group of players, like there is at most clubs. It’s the guys who have been around the most and have got the experience. I’m part of that.
“We have meetings with the coach about how we think the training is going, what we need to do and what we need to cut back on.
“On a match day it is the older guys who are talking a lot more, and I want to help develop the other guys in the back three if I can.”
Cueto is now into his 14th season with the Sharks, having made his debut when he was just 21.
Since joining the club in 2001, the winger has picked up silverware in the form of the European Challenge Cup in 2002 and 2005 and the Guinness Premiership title in 2005/06.
He also has the accolade of being the Premiership’s leading try scorer, crossing the line 86 times in a stellar career for the one-club man.
Talking about his loyalty to Sale, Cueto said: “It’s always been a good club. We’ve always had good players, particularly for my first eight or nine years when nobody left.
“That was probably the heyday of the club in terms of history. We won a couple of Cups, we won the Premiership, and there was never any reason to leave.
“More recently the club has gone through a few rocky patches. There’s been some tough years but I think you get that wherever you go. 90% of my time here has been really good.”
Sat eighth in the table following last weekend’s victory over Wasps, Cueto feels the current Sharks squad has the potential to kick on and achieve a top-half finish.
“We’ve talked about qualifying for the European competition again. We’ve been a little bit up and down over the past four years, so I think it would be nice to bring a bit of consistency to the club.
“Having finished a good sixth last year, we’d like to do that again this year, but we obviously want to give a good account of ourselves in Europe at the same time.”
Following Sale’s weekend test they welcome Munster to the AJ Bell Stadium on October 18 in the first match of their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign.
Recovering from an injury sustained on the opening day of the season, Cueto will be hoping to feature in the coming weeks but is aware that he can’t walk straight back into the starting line-up and has not been included for today’s clash with Premiership leaders Northampton.
“I had a little cameo for five minutes last weekend and didn’t feel too bad,” he said.
“Obviously I want to play games, but at the same time I will be 35 at Christmas. It’s probably going to be my last year so I’m quite happy to play whatever role I’m given.”
Main image courtesy of England Rugby via YouTube, with thanks.