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Aviva Premiership
Cueto grateful for ban boost
ESPNscrum Staff
May 27, 2011
Sale's Mark Cueto fends of the Northampton defence, Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England, April 2, 2011
Cueto believes his recent nine-week ban could have boosted his World Cup chances © Getty Images
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England winger Mark Cueto believes his recent nine-week suspension has boosted his chances of playing a major role at this year's Rugby World Cup.

The 31-year-old Sale winger was hit with the ban in April after pleading guilty to "making contact with the eye or eye area" of Northampton's Christian Day during their Premiership clash at Franklin's Gardens. He is forbidden to speak about the incident by England, the Rugby Football Union and his club until the sanction expires on June 7 but has revealed that the opportunity to address a niggling knee cartilage injury was a welcome consequence.

"The fact the suspension may have helped me for the World Cup has been the positive view I've taken on what's been a poor few weeks," he said. "The injury was manageable, I could train and play, but the surgeon was very happy post-op that we'd made the decision to do it.

"He was pretty certain that with the intensity of the World Cup camp and warm-up games, it could have become a bigger problem further down the line. Given that I had that window of extra time because of the ban, it was a good decision to have the operation.

"If I hadn't had it, I'd have carried on until the end of the season at least, as long as it didn't get worse. And then at the end of the season, I don't know if I'd have been happy to do it so close to the World Cup camp."

Having gone under the knife three weeks ago, Cueto has two more weeks of rehabilitation left and expects to be firing on all cylinders by mid June. England meet for the first time on Monday before the gruelling pre-World Cup camp begins in earnest in July and Cueto finds himself in the rare position of looking forward to training.

"It means I've had five weeks off this summer, which is the longest break I've had in over 10 years," he said. "I'm actually keen to get back to training. Every year you get such little time off. Before you know it you're back in for pre-season training and you're almost not hungry because you haven't had enough time off. But now I'm really keen to get back involved. I had the operation, went on holiday and have been back a week."

Cueto, who famously had a try disallowed by the television match official when England lost the 2007 World Cup final to South Africa, believes the stage is set for Martin Johnson's side to scale similar heights in New Zealand this autumn.

"We're in a better position now than we were before the last World Cup," he said. "In itself that suggests that hopefully we can get to the final once again. We're confident of where we're at. We've had a great 12 months.

"Although we missed out on a Grand Slam this year, we won our first Six Nations for eight years. On paper we're in as good a position as we have been for a long time, but we all know that counts for nothing when a World Cup starts. Hopefully it will go well."

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