Scotland scrum-half Chris Cusiter is loving the new challenges that life at Sale Sharks is throwing at him with the former Glasgow Warriors man having scored two tries in their first five Aviva Premiership matches.
The 32-year-old’s career at Scotstoun ended on a bit of a downer when he broke his nose and suffered a concussion in last term’s Pro12 final defeat to Leinster in May. Those injuries meant that he was forced to miss Scotland’s summer tour and could not add to his 68 caps, but, now fully fit, he is loving his rugby in Manchester and hopes to be involved in the autumn Tests next month.
To date, he has started all five of Sale’s Aviva Premiership matches against Bath, Gloucester, London Welsh, Saracens and Wasps. He said: “Obviously I was bitterly disappointed with the result against Leinster and then missing the summer tour, but it meant that I had time to recover whilst also helping out with a few more jobs ahead of my wedding in July so my wife was quite happy!
“After the wedding we managed to squeeze in a quick honeymoon in Italy and then we were straight down to Cheshire to get ourselves sorted out and I was then straight into training with my new team-mates.
“It always takes a bit of time to get used to your new surroundings, new players and new coaches, but the facilities at Carrington where we train are brilliant and everyone helped me settle in quickly. I was pleased to be able to hit the ground running and start the first league match against Bath and the atmosphere and everything surrounding that match let me know that I was in for a treat as each week we face top teams and the grounds that we get to visit are brilliant. The level of competition – both within our own squad to get a place in the team – and in the league generally is very high and I am enjoying coming up against new teams and new players and testing myself.”
After an opening loss to Bath, Sale travelled to Gloucester where Cusiter came up against Greig Laidlaw, one of the men he is vying with for the Scotland No 9 jersey.
Cusiter played well and got a try that day, but Sale lost before going on to get a win over London Welsh and losing to Saracens. On Sunday, his second try of the campaign came as Wasps were defeated 25-14 at the AJ Bell Stadium to leave them eighth in the table and Cusiter added: “We have played some great stuff so far, particularly in an attacking sense, but we know we have to tighten up our defence as the teams in this league are so quick to take their chances.
“We have a trip to Northampton Saints this coming Saturday and then a foray into Europe to look forward to so this month will be exciting.”
In the five matches to date Cusiter has teamed up with maverick character Danny Cipriani in the half-back positions and he is enjoying getting to know the 26-year-old who is now back on the fringes of the England squad.
“Danny is not a shy guy and he has his opinions about the way the game should be played as do I and I think, over the last few weeks, we have begun to strike up a good partnership.
“He is a very attacking player and that is great for the team while we have been working harder on perhaps making safer plays when we are in our own half or when we need to make territory or give the forwards a breather. It has been fun playing with him.”
Cusiter, who went on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005, has been keeping a close eye on his old team Glasgow’s results and is not surprised to see them going so well in the Guinness Pro12.
As for Scotland, Cusiter has had conversations with head coach Vern Cotter and one of his assistants, Duncan Hodge, in recent weeks and his aim is to be involved when Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga come calling in November. “There is still a lot of rugby to be played for Sale before the Autumn Tests while guys like Greig [Laidlaw] and the other scrum-halves who toured in the summer are also doing well, but of course I love playing for Scotland and hope to be part of things going forward.”
Meanwhile, the other Scot who joined Sale in the summer – Nathan Hines – has not had as good a start to life at the club due to a bicep injury.
The 37-year-old second-row was forced off after just four minutes of the match at Gloucester last month and faces another eight weeks on the sidelines.