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Baking enthusiast Jack Cuthbert hopes he has found recipe for success

If you despair at the way rugby players have become such one-dimensional characters in recent times, then Jack Cuthbert is just the sort of fellow who might convince you that things aren't so bad after all.

Jack Cuthbert found that baking bread and selling it on a market stall helped him recover from injury. Picture: SNS Group/SRU
Jack Cuthbert found that baking bread and selling it on a market stall helped him recover from injury. Picture: SNS Group/SRU

For while others might turn to the Xbox or the golf course to take their minds off rugby, the towering 26-year-old is more likely to be found with his head buried in text books as he beavers away on his Open University life sciences degree or up to his elbows in flour as he makes flatbreads - something between a tortilla and a focaccia, he explains - for sale on his 'Flatjacks' Edinburgh market stall.

"It's something to keep me occupied during downtime and times when I am injured and the boys are off on tour," Cuthbert explained. "My shirt sponsor two years ago was closely linked to a patisserie chef who I ended up becoming close friends with and who taught me how to do a little bit of baking. So during the quiet months of the off season I started to run a market stall. It is something that I just did to keep me sane during the quiet months when I was rehabbing my knee."

The knee in question was the one he damaged at the London Sevens last May. Inconveniently, that even took place just a few days before the Scotland summer tour squad was announced, so Cuthbert, who had just enjoyed a hugely impressive club season with Edinburgh, was denied the chance to add to the one cap he won in the World Cup warm-up clash with Ireland at Murrayfield in 2011. When he takes the field for Edinburgh in their pre-season friendly against Newcastle at Hawick's Mansfield Park this evening, it will be his first competitive outing since he suffered that blow.

Small wonder that his bid to become the Mary Berry of Scottish rugby has taken a back seat over the past few days as Cuthbert devotes all his energies and attention to getting back in the saddle with Edinburgh. This is a big season for the former Bath player, who had been a peripheral figure with the Murrayfield club before a combination of circumstances, the most significant being Greig Tonks' move to fly-half, allowed Cuthbert a chance to play, and shine, in his favoured full-back berth.

His international prospects may still be constrained by the fact that Stuart Hogg has all but sewn his name into the collar of the Scotland No.15 shirt over the past couple of seasons, and by the presence of Peter Murchie and even Sean Maitland in the full-back queue, but if Cuthbert can shine in a resurgent Edinburgh over the months ahead then he could well surge back up the pecking order. This, after all, is a player who once managed to oust Nick Abendanon - now with Clermont Auvergne - from the 15 berth at Bath, so his raw abilities are beyond question.

Yet with an international, and possibly World Cup, places at stake, it is fair to ask whether dabbling in baking and a spot of street trading is quite the thing a top-class athlete should be doing. In his defence, Cuthbert stresses that his primary focus is again on rugby, but makes the perfectly fair point that time spent off the treadmill of professional sport might actually prove to have a restorative and reinvigorating quality when it is time to get back on the thing again.

"It is something that I did, really, to keep me sane during the quiet months," said Cuthbert. "During the off season I was injured so I couldn't get away on holiday because I had a lot of rehabbing, a lot of lonely times at Murrayfield, so once I'd done the bulk of my recovery I thought I would like to try something different."

Edinburgh beat Newcastle 15-5 when the two sides met at Mansfield Park almost exactly a year ago. It was coach Alan Solomons' first victory in charge of the capital side, but it was to prove something of a false dawn as the serious season got underway. While Glasgow won their first five games of the 2013-14 PRO12 campaign, Edinburgh lost all but one of theirs.

In which light, Edinburgh's feisty and physical performance in their 10-11 loss to Leicester at the Greenyards last weekend was a heartening experience for fans of the club, hinting as it did that their side might have acquired the element of devil that made only sporadic appearances last season.

Cuthbert's selection at full-back ahead of Nick McLennan is one of the very few changes Solomons has made for their second trip to the Borders, although the range of options available to the coach was put in context yesterday by Newcastle - and former Edinburgh and Scotland - scrum-half Mike Blair's observation that the Scots' line-up contained only four players he could count as former team-mates, despite leaving the capital side only two seasons ago.

Solomons said: "I approached the pre-season games as a real opportunity for players to get game time and to get used to playing the systems in a competitive environment. I think that is a real benefit. I thought we got a lot out of the Leicester game; that was really good for us. It was good for us to play against decent opposition.

"We need to get the basics right. The basics are our conditioning, our set piece and our defence, so it would be pointless for us to go into a game and then defend in a shoddy manner. That would not be helpful at all. This is another ideal opportunity to practise against a good side."

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