Ceri relishes new challenge
By Mark Stevens
Welshman Ceri Sweeney admits he is "excited" by the challenge that awaits him having agreed to join Aviva Premiership club Exeter Chiefs on a one-year deal.
The 33-year-old fly-half becomes the second Cardiff Blues back - following club-mate and fellow Welsh international Tom James - in swapping life in the Principality for that of Sandy Park.
Vastly experienced and with 35 international caps to his name, Sweeney will join the Chiefs having spent the past five years in the Welsh capital with the Blues, where he has scored 324 points in 109 appearances - and before that four seasons with the Newport-Gwent Dragons where he scored 570 points in 86 appearances.
His latest move to the Westcountry, however, will see Sweeney sample his first taste of life in the English leagues and it's something the the Glyncoch-born player is keen to taste following positive talks with Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter and his assistant Ali Hepher.
"I'm really excited about the move," said Sweeney. "Exeter are a fantastic club and as soon as I heard they were interested in me, I was keen to talk to them and have a look around the place. Like a lot of people I've watched how they have risen over the last few years and how they've made a real name for themselves, not just in the Premiership, but also in Europe as well.
"I also like their style of play and they seem to have some great values within the club, all of which were pretty much in evidence when I went to speak to Rob and Ali. The whole set-up down there is very professional and I couldn't really find fault with anything.
"As I said, it's an exciting move for me and for my young family and it's a fresh challenge. I know it will be the first time I've played club rugby outside of Wales, but the thought of testing myself in the Premiership is something I'm really keen to do."
The Chiefs have been on the hunt for a new No.10 after it was confirmed recently that Argentinian fly-half Ignacio Mieres would be joining rivals Worcester Warriors from the start of next season.
That search has now concluded with the acquisition of Sweeney, whose experience of playing at the highest level is something that is sure to benefit not only the Chiefs, but also fellow Exeter play-makers Gareth Steenson and Henry Slade.
"I'm sure my experience is something that can help the club," he added. "But my main aim will be to work hard, work closely with the other tens, and basically look to bring the best out of one another."
Certainly Sweeney should not have too much trouble settling in at Sandy Park, especially as there are a few familiar faces already within the Chiefs ranks that he is already well acquainted with. As well as fellow newcomer James, Ben White and Damian Welch are former team-mates at the Blues, whilst Phil Dollman regularly lined up alongside Sweeney during their playing days with the Dragons.
However, Sweeney was quick to pay tribute to his colleagues at the Blues, stating: "I've really enjoyed my time with the Blues, they are a fantastic club and the supporters have been outstanding. For me it's my home region and with the young players they have coming through the ranks, the future of the club certainly looks very bright.
"I take with me a lot of happy memories and a lot of good friends, but I wanted a fresh challenge at this stage in my career and that is something Exeter have offered me."