Rugby World Cup 2011
Cueto: Only footballers can empathise
September 22, 2011
England wing Mark Cueto will make his return from injury in this weekend's clash with Romania © Getty Images
England wing Mark Cueto believes that only professional footballers can relate to the level of public scrutiny that their behaviour is coming under at the Rugby World Cup.
Centre Mike Tindall, the husband of the Queen's grand-daughter, Zara Phillips, has been front-page news in the British tabloids for over a week now following the emergence of CCTV footage of him talking to an unidentified woman at a Queenstown nightspot during a night out with team-mates.
The controversy has completely overshadowed England's preparations for Saturday's Pool B clash with Romania in Dunedin, prompting Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to take to Twitter to express his sympathy for the players. "Let's try + help/push our England rugby team not ruin them!," the defender wrote.
Cueto, who reposted that message on his own account, freely admits that he and his team-mates have been taken aback by the unwanted tabloid media attention, revealing that a siege mentality has developed within the camp.
"Maybe a little. You've only got to read some of the things the footballers are writing," the Sale Sharks ace said. "They seem to be the only people at the minute who sympathise with the position we're in. The reason for that is because they are more used to it than we are."
Cueto confessed that he is also struggling to come to terms with the fact that the players are the centre of attention wherever they go in New Zealand.
"On the one hand it's a positive thing because we know how excited people are and how much they expect - but on the other hand it's frustrating," he said.
"Over here it is a massive goldfish bowl and you do get a bit of a feel for what it's like for those Premiership boys in England, when you can't walk the street without people asking for photos and autographs and everything else. It is nice - but to be experiencing it every time you walk out the hotel is difficult."
Cueto is well aware, though, that there is not really any solution to the issue given that New Zealand is such a rugby-obsessed country.
"Everywhere you go round here somebody wants an autograph or a picture and everything else - if you don't want that the only thing to do is to stay locked in your room. It can become a boring place stuck in your room 24-7," he said.
"I think the balance we've got in England is pretty good at the minute. You can walk the street and not get noticed.
"We know we are where we are in a World Cup in New Zealand which is the biggest rugby nation in the world. So you've got to accept it to a degree and we know it probably won't be as bad when we get home. It's just something you have to deal with."
And Cueto concedes that England have enough to be worrying about on the field at the moment, having turned in uninspiring displays in their only two outings so far, against Argentina and Georgia. As a result, he is hoping that they can produce a much-improved performance against Romania on Saturday.
"I think there's a huge amount more to come. With everything that's been going on, it probably has galvanised us a little bit," said Cueto, who will start on the left wing against the Oaks after recovering from a back problem. "Ultimately we're here to play rugby and win games and that's what we're doing.
"In a crazy sort of way it's quite positive we can be stood here feeling disappointed with how we've played - yet we're two from two with nine points.
"That in itself proves the ambition of everyone within the camp - and the excitement and anticipation of everyone outside the camp."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.