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Page last updated at 06:36 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 07:36 UK

Jonny Wilkinson hailed by Cup rival Ceri Sweeney

AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP FINAL
Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille Date: Sunday, 23 May Kick-off: 1400 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru & online, score updates on BBC Sport website. Live on Sky Sports 1


Jonny Wilkinson and Ceri Sweeney
Jonny Wilkinson and Ceri Sweeney will be fly-half rivals in Sunday's cup final

Ceri Sweeney will go toe-to-toe with Jonny Wilkinson in Sunday's Amlin Challenge Cup final insisting the England superstar is still top class.

Sweeney's Cardiff Blues play Wilkinson-led Toulon in the Marseille showpiece bidding to be the first Welsh region to win a European trophy.

And the Blues number 10 has warned his side to keep a "close eye" on England's World Cup-winning fly-half.

"Jonny still has the skills and can still run a game," said Sweeney.

Wilkinson became one of rugby's global superstars after his late drop-goal won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup, beating Australia in the final in Sydney.

But the iconic fly-half has been injury-plagued since kicking England to World Cup glory and the British and Irish Lions star left Newcastle and moved to France last summer.

Roberts ready for 'immense' final

Wilkinson is just one the big names in Top 14 giants Toulon's squad that also includes former All Black captain Tana Umaga and Argentines Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Felipe Contepomi.

Now Wales international Sweeney hopes to keep Wilkinson quiet and guide the Blues to victory in European rugby's second-tier tournament.

"Jonny has still got it," Sweeney told BBC Sport.

"He was in a very good England side as they were world champions. But he is more experienced now so he can still definitely do the job.

"Jonny runs their game and is the main orchestrator of their plays and controls their kicking game.

"We must keep a close eye on him as he is dangerous with his boot so we must make sure we're on our toes."

Wilkinson hopes his star-studded Toulon team, who missed out on the French championship crown, can end their season on a high by claiming the Amlin title at the Stade Velodrome.

"It is an exciting prospect and Cardiff are a fabulous team," said Wilkinson. "We have had a tough journey and so have they.

"Now it is a one-off game. All the work comes down to one game and the bounce of a ball or two.

"We have to take forward the passion and motivation of coming so close and let it drive the hunger for this weekend.

"Our squad is mentally and physically fresh - no one is crying out for the end."

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Sweeney has already suffered Euro final heartbreak when his Pontypridd team lost 25-22 to Sale Sharks in the 2002 Challenge Cup final.

The former Newport Gwent Dragons fly-half has won his place back in Dai Young's Blues team after missing out on playing in the Blues' EDF Energy Anglo-Welsh Cup win last season and their Heineken Cup semi-final penalty-shootout defeat to Leicester

But he warned: "We're coming up against a big money team in Toulon who have spent an enormous amount of money.

"And being the kind of club they are, people are expecting them to win and we go into it as underdogs - but we are quietly confident that we can have the ability to win it."



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see also
Blues coach Young wary of Toulon
19 May 10 |  Cardiff Blues
Cardiff Blues 28-21 Toulon
23 May 10 |  Welsh
Wales' record in European finals
23 May 10 |  Welsh
Blues heading for 'biggest game'
11 May 10 |  Welsh
Scarlets bid for Blues Cup favour
03 May 10 |  Welsh
Blues bid for Welsh Euro history
02 May 10 |  Cardiff Blues
England win Rugby World Cup
22 Nov 03 |  Internationals
Sale claim Shield glory
26 May 02 |  European
European rugby archive
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union
European Challenge Cup 2009/10
21 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Scrum V's Welsh rugby webguide
14 Aug 07 |  Welsh
France country profile
12 Feb 12 |  Country profiles
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Rugby Union commentaries
09 Sep 10 |  Rugby Union


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