Rugbu Union

Cuthbert eager for Ospreys debut

Alex Cuthbert has played 47 internationals for Wales and a Test for the British and Irish Lions
Venue: Stadio Comunale di Monigo Date: Saturday, 16 October Time: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sport website & app. Highlights on Scrum V, BBC Two Wales and online, Sunday 17 October from 18:00 BST and later on demand

Wales wing Alex Cuthbert will complete his return to regional rugby when he makes his Ospreys debut against Benetton on Saturday.

The 31-year-old left Cardiff in 2018 and spent three seasons at Exeter, where he was part of a squad that won an English Premiership and Champions Cup title.

After the announcement of his Ospreys move, Cuthbert’s first appearance was delayed because of an injury suffered in Exeter’s Premiership final defeat to Harlequins in June.

“It’s been good to be out on the field with the team over the last couple of weeks,” said Cuthbert.

“I’m just looking forward to getting out there with the boys and hopefully pulling on the Ospreys jersey for the first time.”

Cuthbert admits he was glad he left Wales to ply his club trade in England.

“I left Wales probably not the way I wanted in terms of my rugby,” admitted Cuthbert.

“I needed a new challenge and targets. I went to Exeter and was not reborn, but started enjoying my rugby a bit more and did what I was good at.

“Being in a squad and coaching environment gave me a chance to play to the best of my abilities. I learned an awful lot. It was an awesome three years.

“We won a few trophies, which is what I went there for, and I enjoyed my rugby alongside a great bunch of boys and learned a lot.

“I came out of it a more experienced and a more mature person. I’ve taken a lot out of the last three years, learned a lot, played with some absolute world-class players in a team full of superstars.

“Winning Europe and the Premiership is no mean feat and being involved was an awesome experience. Going there opened my eyes, just seeing how they coach and how they wanted to play.

“I left in my late-20s or so, whereas now I’m 31. I feel I have a lot of experience to give going into every game.”

Cuthbert made his Wales debut in 2011 and his imposing 6ft 6in, 16st 10lb presence helped him form a powerful wing partnership with George North and the 2013 British and Irish Lions in Australia.

He scored a Test try as Warren Gatland’s Lions beat the Wallabies 2-1 in that series and was also part of Wales’ 2012 Grand Slam-winning team.

The following year Cuthbert excelled against South Africa and it was these three years that have been considered his finest.

“You could say that was my peak, but I probably feel now I’m a better and more rounded player,” he added.

“My experience is second to none, and there aren’t too many wings who have done what I’ve done in Wales and then gone to England and won Europe and the Premiership and then come back.

“I have a lot of experience to give. There are a lot of young boys here I’d like to put an arm around and there’s good talent within the squad.”

Alex Cuthbert
Alex Cuthbert scored 16 tries for Wales, but has not played for his country since 2017

Cuthbert suffered a lot of social media abuse during his Wales career but says he has learned to handle the highs and lows.

“That’s just professional sport,” said Cuthbert.

“You take your highs and the challenge is trying to stay at that high, but sometimes it doesn’t work like that.

“You have your bad times where you feel like you can’t do anything right. I have learned over the last couple of years about being resilient, trying to stay in it and fighting for everything.

“In theory I have not got loads of rugby left. I am 31 and I am just trying to enjoy every moment and experience I am having.”

When Cuthbert left Cardiff for Exeter, his international career halted because of the nation’s eligibility rules – falling short of the 60 caps needed to play for Wales while playing for a club outside of the country.

The 47-times capped wing will now be free to pursue more international appearances.

“I’d love to play for Wales again, but with the injury record I have over the past three years I’m going to take it game by game,” he added.

“This weekend’s a big game for me. I’ll go from there and look forward.”

Cuthbert has seen his good friend, Ospreys team-mate and business partner Gareth Anscombe, battle back from two years out with a serious knee injury to be named in Wales’ autumn internationals squad this week.

“It’s remarkable to produce performances like he has over the past three weeks after being out for such a long time,” added Cuthbert.

“You have to give Gareth credit, I’ve seen him in some of the dark days. He’s come through those with flying colours and for him to be selected for Wales is great.

“He’s a good mate of mine and I’m proud of him. We all are, all his friends and family. It’ll be good to see him get that Welsh jersey back on.”

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