key to unleashing backline – Cueto
the hope that he can force his way back into the England setup in time for RWC 2019, Ashton has also given himself the chance to overhaul Tom Varndell as the competition’s leading alltime try scorer, a record once held by Cueto himself.
Ashton is currently 12 tries adrift on 80 and Cueto believes with the way the game is played nowadays, the odds are in his favour.
“Generally, across the board, rugby is a better game than it was ten years ago,” he reasoned.
“Credit has to go to the players as much as anything. The skill levels are better. When you see the acrobatic one-handed tries that Denny scores, no-one thought about doing that sort of stuff back in the day. If players had been doing that, then maybe I’d have scored that try in 2007!
“Equally, I think the powers-that-be, World Rugby, are trying to speed the game up with the Laws and that’s favouring the attacking sides.
“Everyone is conscious that it is entertainment at the end of the day and you’ve got to try and attract the masses rather than just the rugby purist. To do that, you need the ball in play more rather than setpiece, scrum and lineout.
“You don’t see as much competition at the ruck now, and the speed of the ball at the ruck is quicker – you are looking at one/two second rucks whereas ten years ago, four/five seconds was a quick ruck.”
Cueto insists they have the right man in fly-half AJ MacGinty to take advantage of the change of emphasis and unleash Sale’s attacking weapons.
“He reminds me a bit of Jonny Wilkinson,” Cueto added. “He is not as big a name, but his defence is incredible, he is probably one of the best defenders in the team – not that you want your ten to be making tackles!
“He is also an incredibly consistent kicker. At one point last season he was one of the top three kickers in the world, percentagewise. And I don’t think he gets enough raps for his attacking game; he gets the back line moving so well.
“With Ashy running his trail lines and AJ’s little show-and-goes, you’ve almost got a match made in heaven. I am sure that will lead to a few tries. The back line we’ve assembled is incredible.”
Just like Jonny: Sale fly-half AJ MacGinty