Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Allen enjoys meteoric rise

Cory Allen will start for Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

Wales newcomer Cory Allen will complete a quantum leap on Saturday from playing club rugby against Llandovery in front of 500 spectators two months ago to making his Test match debut.

The 20-year-old centre admits he would have laughed had anyone suggested in September that he would be part of Wales' autumn international squad, let alone starting for his country.

But the reality is that 6ft 3in Allen will run out against Argentina, replacing injured British and Irish Lions star Jonathan Davies when Wales look to bounce back from last weekend's loss to South Africa.

"My first game this season was for Cardiff RFC, and my goal for the year, if I'm honest, was just to break into the Cardiff Blues (regional) side," Allen said.

"To get into the autumn squad and be starting on Saturday is a lot further ahead than I thought I would be.

"If someone had said to me at the start of the season that I would be in the autumn Wales squad, then I would have laughed. It has come real quick, but I am just so excited to be here. I just can't wait to get going.

"When they read out the (Wales) team I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach. But I just wanted to ring my mum straight away.

"I think she screamed and cried all at once.

"It was a surprise to be in the original squad, and if I am honest I thought I might be on the bench against Tonga (next Friday). But with 'Foxy' (Davies) getting injured, I thought there might be a chance in this game. Now it is up to me to show what I can do."

Cardiff-born Allen was a member of the Wales Under-20 team that made history in South Africa last year by inflicting a first World Cup defeat on New Zealand's mighty junior side.

But he also made a major impact representing his country on the International Rugby Board's world sevens circuit, scoring the try of the tournament during this year's Hong Kong Sevens when Wales lost 26-19 to Fiji in a thrilling final.

"The sevens is a world circuit, and going into that I was pretty nervous," Allen added. "But playing against international sides gets you used to things.

"You are always exposed in sevens and it puts a lot of pressure on you. If you can deal with that, then you can develop your game and it elevates you to another level.

"The sevens helped put me in people's eyes. The Hong Kong event, where Wales did so well, put me in the picture. Then, it's just about playing and taking your chances when they come.

"Fortunately, Phil (Davies) at the Blues has given me a few chances this year, and I am grateful for that.

"It's a massive step up (to international rugby), but it is not something that I am afraid of. I am quite comfortable that I can handle the challenge.

"I'm confident about Saturday. If I wasn't good enough to be playing then I wouldn't have been picked. I just can't wait to play."

And if Allen needed a voted of confidence, then it has readily arrived from his Blues team-mate and current Wales captain Sam Warburton.

"I was delighted to see Cory get picked," Warburton said.

"He is the type of guy that you can just chuck in at the deep end. He will handle it, he will enjoy the stage on Saturday, and I expect him to do some really good things.

"I am really looking forward to seeing how he goes."

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