Harsh glare of spotlight fortifies us, insists Cueto

ENGLAND vs ROMANIA

ENGLAND wing Mark Cueto insists the negative publicity surrounding their World Cup campaign has only made them more determined to repeat the heroics of 2003 and return with the Webb Ellis Trophy.

The team’s preparations for tomorrow’s Pool B clash with Romania have been surrounded by controversy over the off-field behaviour of some players, notably vice-captain Mike Tindall.

Compounding the gloom has been a focus on the negative aspects of their two matches so far at the tournament in New Zealand – an attritional win over Argentina and a flawed thrashing of Georgia.

Cueto (inset), a key figure in the side that came within a disallowed try of retaining the trophy four years ago, returns against Romania and believes England’s team spirit is in rude health.

“Regardless of whether it’s positive or negative stuff, we’re always quite good at turning that into a bonding thing. At the minute, with everything that’s been going on, it probably has galvanised us a little bit,” he said.

“In a crazy sort of way, it’s quite positive to be stood here feeling disappointed with how we’ve played having won two from two. There’s a huge amount more to come. We’ve been criticised hugely for the two performances, maybe rightly so in certain areas, but ultimately we’ve scored nine points from a possible 10.”

Cueto missed the first two matches with a back injury but returns in place of in-form Delon Armitage as one of seven changes to the England team this weekend in Dunedin.

Tindall resumes his midfield partnership with Manu Tuilagi, in place of Shontayne Hape, while veteran fly-half Jonny Wilkinson reclaims the No10 shirt from rival Toby Flood. The pack features four changes, chiefly hooker Steve Thompson replacing Dylan Hartley. Prop Alex Corbisiero, second row Louis Deacon and flanker Tom Croft have also been recalled.