Sweeney won't have stars in his eyes


Ceri Sweeney
Ceri Sweeney
Ceri Sweeney

[icWales] CERI Sweeney insists he won't be awestruck when he lines up against star-studded England this weekend.

The Pontypridd fly-half will make his first start for Wales in Saturday's Six Nations clash, having replaced Iestyn Harris at number 10.

He could hardly have asked for a more testing initiation than the one that awaits him at the Millennium Stadium.

His opposite number will be the prolific Jonny Wilkinson, while bearing down on him will be the all-British Lions back-row of Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Neil Back.

But Sweeney remains refreshingly unfazed by the challenge that lies ahead.

"It's important not to get overawed by it all," said the 23-year-old.

"If you're in awe of the opposition, you're fighting a losing battle before you start. England are a very good side with some excellent players.

"But they've just got two arms and two legs like everyone else."

So how daunting is the prospect of going head-to-head with English fly-half Wilkinson?

"It's not daunting at all," said Sweeney. "I've got a lot of respect for him, but you can't give anyone too much respect." And what of the back row of Messrs Dallaglio, Hill and Back.

"You've got three world class players there," he said.

"I think they've got something like 150-odd caps between them.

"But it isn't worth being too much in awe of them. You've just got to get on with the game.

"This is my first start at 10 and I'm really looking forward to it."

Clearly, Sweeney isn't a young man lacking in confidence.

"Playing at outside-half you have got to be confident," he said. "I'm just going to come in and play my natural game. It's pointless trying to be something that you are not."

He adopts a similarly positive attitude to the goal-kicking duties he will take over from Harris.

Sweeney seldom place-kicks for his club, but he has no worries on that score.

"It's no bother to me," he said."It's not something that I shy away from.

"It's just that I don't get the opportunity at Ponty with two class goal-kickers there in Brett Davey and Neil Jenkins. But it's something I've always done since I was a youngster and I'm doing the same amount of practice as I was at 17.

"I took the kicks a couple of weeks ago against Newport and there was no problem. I got four out of five.

"I enjoy goal-kicking. It's just that my chances have been few and far between recently."

Sweeney's confidence extends to his hopes for Wales this weekend.

"I don't think many people give us a chance," he said.

"But that's a good thing. If England come over here with the attitude that it's going to be easy then there could be a surprise on the cards.

"When Welsh teams play English teams they tend to step up another level. Ponty did very well against them last season and I have enjoyed playing the English sides."

Sweeney's selection completes a remarkable rise up the ranks for a player who was fourth in the fly-half pecking order - behind Stephen Jones, Iestyn Harris and Neil Jenkins - just a few short weeks ago.

"It has been a big surprise," he said. "I was shocked to be in the 32 to start with - now I'm in the team."

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