Six Nations
Cueto happy to win ugly
February 21, 2010
England's Mark Cueto takes on the Italy defence, Italy v England, Six Nations Championship, Stadio Flaminio, Rome, Italy, February 14, 2010
England's Mark Cueto stretches the Italy defence during their recent Six Nations clash in Rome © Getty Images

Winger Mark Cueto has dismissed criticism of England's performances in this year's Six Nations and insists results are all that matter.

England are unbeaten heading into next weekend's clash with Ireland at Twickenham having accounted for Wales and Italy in their opening two Championship clashes. But Martin Johnson's side have failed to impress in the process with criticism greeting their latest victory over the Azzurri in Rome. But Cueto insists England have learned the lessons from Rome and emerged stronger for the experience.

"Regardless of how well or how badly we have played, ultimately all that matters is the result. We are two from two, we can't be in a better position," Cueto told PA Sport. "We would maybe have liked to got here in a better way, but ultimately we are where we want to be. I think in a funny sort of way it is almost better to have two games where we have had to grind out results than to beat Wales at home and win comfortably in Rome.

"There would be a danger of looking forward to the Ireland game with a false sense of security of where we are as a team. Whereas the way the games have gone we are under no illusions about where we are, but we are in a positive position and we have plenty to be confident about and plenty to believe in. Every game is pivotal because you lose one game in this competition and everything goes down the drain. We are happy to have two wins and be on for a Grand Slam but every game is so important, so massive that you can't think beyond it."

England only managed to produce brief glimpses of an expansive approach against Italy and Cueto believe that the key for the Ireland game is to translate those promising opportunities into points.

"We just didn't play that well, we didn't do what we set out to," said Cueto, who has become ambassador for leading European sports food company Multipower. "The funny thing is that looking at the game since we played it, I have been a lot happier than when I was walking off the pitch. All I thought was that we didn't play any rugby, kicked the ball and it was boring but we actually made more linebreaks off counter-attack than we had in 12 months.

"There was a lot of kicking in the game but there were times we did make linebreaks. Maybe should have done it more but on the day we didn't quite get it right. Against Italy we showed better form than we have shown for a year or two - but in the same game we showed worse form than we have shown for a year or two. We are definitely looking for a better, more consistent performance."

There is also a measure of personal revenge about next Saturday's clash for Cueto, who has lost on all three of his England performances against Ireland. His overriding memory of facing the Irish is frustration. In 2005, England lost 19-13 at Lansdowne Road after Cueto had a perfectly good try disallowed for offside, prompting a tirade from head coach Andy Robinson.

Last season, England lost to the eventual Grand Slam champions at Croke Park by just one point having had two players sin-binned. "They are always very tight games and from a personal point of view it would be nice to beat them and get a try," said Cueto, who has not scored against Ireland or in his last eight Tests for England. "I am in a bit of a drought at the moment but it will come good. My all-round game is better than it has ever been. It is not like there are glaring opportunities that I am butchering."

In related news, former England rugby captain Jason Robinson believes the national team must start playing a more expansive game. "Most people say there's a lack of vision and England are not really playing. England will be happy that they've won two from two, that is a positive, but I think we just all want to see England really go out and play.

"In the last game they were conservative. In the first minute I thought 'Oh yeah, England are going to start to use the ball and use the players they've got.' Unfortunately we missed a few kicks which put a bit of pressure on but players didn't seem to really want to play a wide, wide game and if you play against Italy up the middle you're in for a tough time. I'm really looking forward to England going out there, just taking the shackles off and really playing some rugby."

Asked on Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme if much-criticised fly-half Jonny Wilkinson should be retained he said, "Jonny Wilkinson is a fantastic player for England, it's not very often he misses kicks and I think that was probably the biggest shock that he missed so many. He has been playing well but if players are not playing to what we would want then maybe there's time for a change.

"There's been a lot of talk about Ben Foden, whether he could come in and do something and I think guys like this have got to be given a chance. Guys like Ben Foden have been playing well all season and been ripping sides apart and if nothing is happening, why can't you get him on for 20 minutes and let's see what he can do?"


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