Cueto: Right time to call it a day
Former England and British and Irish Lions winger Mark Cueto will be aiming to make the most of his "bonus year" after announcing his decision to bring his 14-year playing career to an end.
The Aviva Premiership's most prolific try-scorer, who turned 35 on Boxing Day, will hang up his boots at the end of the season, he announced at a press conference at the Sharks' training ground in Manchester on Wednesday.
"In my head, I could carry on playing forever, but the body is not doing what the mind tells it to," said Cueto, who is happy to be able to retire on his own terms.
"I'm 35 and it's getting a lot harder day to day. This year was always a bit of a bonus year, and the time is now right to call it a day.
"When I made my debut at Bristol back in 2001, I could hardly have dreamed that I would play for Sale Sharks for 14 seasons, represented my country all over the world and played with and against some of the all-time greats."
Workington-born Cueto, who joined Sale straight from university, has so far made 294 appearances for Sale and is the Premiership's all-time leading scorer with 87 tries, having overtaken former Sharks team-mate Steve Hanley's previous best of 75 in 2013.
With Wasps winger Tom Varndell breathing down his neck, he does not expect his record to last for long but he hopes to add to his tally before the end of the season.
"Now it's so close, I'll try to appreciate it while I'm still in it," he said. " I've only scored one try this year. It's been a troublesome season with injury.
"I'd love to be able to keep the tag forever and a day, but I'm realistic. Tom's an unbelievable try-scorer and he's only 29. As long as he stays in the Premiership, he will nick it one day. But I think I'll stick in that second spot for a while."
Cueto scored also 20 tries in 55 appearances for England, including the World Cups of 2007 and 2011, and toured with the Lions in 2005, playing in the final Test against New Zealand.
Cueto is hoping to develop some business interests, but will remain with Sale as part of the club's commercial department and will become their first ambassador.
"Coaching has never interested me but I didn't want to turn my back on the game so this has softened the blow massively," he said. "I really appreciate the offer."
Cueto says his only regret throughout his career is that Sale failed to capitalise on their solitary Premiership success in 2006, but he believes the club are well positioned to become one of the forces in the Premiership.
"We're in a positive place," he said. "Guys like Mike Haley, Tom Brady, Will Addison, Josh Beaumont and Tommy Taylor are all local lads who have come through the academy and there are not many teams in the Premiership that have that many guys coming through. It's a massive positive for the club.
"It's so important for us to be consistently in the top six and ideally pushing for top four. If we can do that, it will allow these guys to stay."
Cueto also believes the retention of fly-half Danny Cipriani would send a message to their rivals that the Sharks mean business.
The former Wasps player is out of contract in May but is now expected to turn his back on a lucrative move to Toulon following his recall to the England squad ahead of the RBS 6 Nations.
"For me, it was all about England," Cueto said. "He's made no bones about how important England is to him and how much he wants to play and be a part of the England team.
"As fate has it, he might be closer to a starting place than a week ago because of injuries.
"On the one hand it's great for the club because it probably means there's a better chance of him staying, but on the other hand he may not be here for the next month or so when we are targeting some of the top teams who are missing a lot of players during the international period.
"If he gets an opportunity in the England team, I'm sure he will do the boys proud."