WHILE Mark Cueto says Ryan Giggs is an inspiration of his, don’t expect the former England star to replace Steve Diamond in the hotseat at Sale Sharks any time soon.
But the evergreen 34-year-old does admit he has adapted his own game over the years in the same way the Manchester United legend to remain at his peak.
Former Crewe schoolboy Cueto has lost some of his pace but none of his guile, running in eight scores this season to cement his place as the Aviva Premiership’s all-time top try-scorer with 86.
Such is his continued exuberance the former England wing put any thoughts of retirement on the backburner in January by penning a one-year contract extension.
Though he is not entertaining any thoughts of taking Giggs’ lead and playing into his 40s, Cueto believes there is a resemblance between their two careers.
“Giggsy is a big one, he’s just round the corner and supporting United, you see how long he’s played in the game,” said Cueto, who attended St Thomas More School.
“It’s similar really, 20 years ago he was this maverick winger flying down that flank at Old Trafford beating people in-and-out whereas now he can’t necessarily do that.
“He’s adapted his game and is more of a ball-playing midfielder as opposed to an attacking midfielder.
“So in a way you do adapt your game slightly and from my point of view, going from an out-and-out winger I’ve played at 13 this year, I’ve not played 15 but I’m pretty comfortable in those two or three positions.
“It’s funny at this stage of your career when you’re looking at it every season being your last season, obviously Heineken Cup is something everyone sets out to qualify.
“But whatever we’re in I just want to enjoy it and play well.”
Next season could be Cueto’s 14th and last as a Shark, but he has refused to rule out the possibility of prolonging his playing days – even if there are some who expect his performances could falter.
“In the game we’re in, age does and doesn’t catch up,” he added.
“Everyone thinks it does, there is a bit of a stigma about people’s ages and as soon as you get over 30 let alone 34 that I am now, particularly the position I’m in, no one expects you to keep playing.
“I would never have signed another year if I wasn’t confident I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play.
“I wouldn’t sign it for the sake of a salary and there’s no way these guys would offer that anyway, so at this stage it’s just re-evaluating every week, every month.
“The chances are it will be my last year, but if come January next year we’re going well and I’m playing well and a lot of rugby as I have done this season, we’ll sit down and have a discussion.
“It’s difficult to look that far ahead at this stage of my career.“
Mark Cueto was speaking at the launch of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Policy. Sign up for exclusive access to interviews and competitions at premiershiprugby.com/avivarugbypolicy