Mark Cueto on Worcester’s plight, why more can be done and how England are shaping up for France 2023

Mark Cueto has been on the player and commercial side of Premiership club Sale Sharks

©Creative shot

A year that includes a women’s World Cup in New Zealand and the men’s flagship event in France – combined with top-flight domestic and international rugby – was something everyone associated with the sport should be positive about at the start of this season .

With rugby wall to wall for the next 12 months it would have been easy for us to get carried away with the excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead, but the doom and gloom that surrounds Premiership rugby at the moment is sadly inescapable.

On Monday night, the Worcester Warriors were placed under administration. Rugby Football Union confirmed the club was suspended from all competitions after failing to meet the 5pm deadline to provide evidence of “insurance coverage, availability of funds to meet monthly payroll and a credible plan for club development”. .

Worcester could now face a points deduction and relegation to the Championship, but that can be avoided if they can prove a no-fault bankruptcy.

The Warriors’ situation was the culmination of weeks of financial turmoil, which began with a dissolution filing over an unpaid tax bill last month. The club’s total debts are reportedly £25million.

Given the backdrop, Worcester’s performance on the pitch against the Newcastle Falcons last weekend was nothing short of remarkable. Steve Diamond, his players and the club’s staff have shown an incredible strength of unity during this turbulent period and Mark Cueto – who worked with the Warriors boss during his tenure at Sale Sharks – could only express his disappointment.

“I think it’s just a real shame,” Cueto tells TRU. “They don’t want clubs to be in that position. People have to pay mortgages. They have families, partners, sons and daughters to take care of and it’s a nightmare scenario for them.

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“Overall, it’s just bad for the game. We’re constantly trying to attract new audiences and young people to a brilliant game, but this is just another negative story people see. There must be more.” done. So many people are working so hard to make the game what it is overall, it’s just a real shame.”

After his successful playing career, Cueto became commercial director at Sale. Having been on both sides of the table, he believes there are various ways to avoid teams like Worcester – and also Wasps, who last week announced their intention to appoint administrators to “protect the club’s interests”. to be confronted with similar situations.

“I’ve been on both sides of the table as a player and obviously work on the commercial side. There is such a huge disparity between spending on the player side and the revenue that comes in through the different streams, whether it’s Premiership, rugby, ticket sales, sponsorships and basically it’s simple math,” says Cueto.

“If you’re a company spending more than you take in, then in most cases it’s just because of the generosity of the owners and the love they have for the game and the money they’ve invested to balance the books at the end of each season .

“Nobody wants to cut players’ salaries, but basically that’s the only thing you can do until the commercial revenue is at a point where it’s increased and as a company you can afford the players more I think , it would be difficult, but I think that’s one of the ways, but more needs to be done to stop this general imbalance.”

With the Premier League salary cap already being lowered, there are fears some high-profile stars could be drawn to new pastures. Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Simmonds’ decision to move to France underscores that, but the No8 was still named in England’s youngest 36-man training squad despite joining top-14 side Montpellier next summer.

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Under current England eligibility rules, that means Simmonds will not be allowed to play for his country at next year’s World Cup, while other headlines from Jones’ first squad announcement of the season included the omission of experienced names such as Danny Care, Henry Slade and Kyle Sinckler and the selection of the fit Manu Tuilagi.

“Manu, who we all know well, it’s great to see him get through two games [in the Premiership] and still be healthy,” adds Cueto. “Anything can happen in World Cup year. No matter who you are or what your name is, your seat is not guaranteed until you sit on this plane. It always adds an extra excitement when it’s a World Cup year.”

Two players named in Jones’ plans are Northampton Saints scrum-half Alex Mitchell and London Irish prodigy Henry Arundell. Cueto watched the former in the Premiership’s opening game against Sale and was impressed by the 25-year-old, while the World Cup finalists at Arundell believe consistency will be key to his progress.

“Mitchell with the Saints, he’s been around for a couple of years now and has been called up to the England squad in the past but never really cemented his place,” says Cueto. “We know what a good player he is and as you say he’s had a really good and lively start to the season.

“I suppose that’s one of those positions where there’s obviously Ben Youngs when you think of the England team but Danny Care seems to have dropped out of the group so certainly a place if not two up for grabs at the moment are.

“As for Arundell, he has this excitement. He can do something out of nothing and create attempts that some players can only dream of. For me, and I don’t want to be critical or negative, he still has a few flaws in his game that I think he needs to improve before he’s really ready for this international stage.

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“And if you look at this [Freddie] Steward, if you can get an 8.5 out of 10 performance in every game, you have a better chance of being selected at international level than someone who can get 12 out of 10 in a game but also two out of 10. “

With less than 12 months to go before the World Cup, England’s final preparatory block begins in November when they take on Argentina and Japan (two sides Jones’ side will play in the pool stage in France), as well as New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham.

Cueto believes a welcome run of wins against Australia in the summer has instilled confidence in the English camp, but admits that in such a big year as a player you need to focus on the here and now rather than the showpiece event at the end the season.

“I think all players are equal,” adds the former England international. “Obviously the World Cup is on your mind, but you really don’t think about it too much. You have the autumn internationals about a month away, so that’s your priority even more than the Six.” Nations or the World Cup.

“You live your life as a rugby player in weeks and it’s all about the next game. You cannot influence what will happen in six to twelve months. You can only influence what happens on a weekend.

“It’s like going away with England and knowing you’ll meet next week but you’ve got one more game to play for your club, you can’t go out there and play at 60 per cent not hurting yourself because you get hurt. You just have to go out and play your normal game and it will take care of itself.

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