Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves: Ward ready for Wembley INTERVIEW

PLAYING IT COOL: Rhinos' teenage prodigy Stevie Ward is confident he won't be fazed by playing in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at Wembley. PIC: Steve Riding
PLAYING IT COOL: Rhinos' teenage prodigy Stevie Ward is confident he won't be fazed by playing in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at Wembley. PIC: Steve Riding
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Teenager Stevie Ward was at Wembley for the past two Carnegie Challenge Cup finals as a Leeds Rhinos fan.

Today (August 25) he will find himself playing there in front of a 80,000-plus crowd in only his 15th first team game.

Ward described an empty Wembley as “breathtaking” – but insisted he is confident he can handle his nerves when he lines up against Warrington Wolves for the biggest game of his life.

The half-back/back-rower had a first walk on the Wembley turf during yesterday’s annual eve-of-final stadium walkabout.

And speaking at pitchside, the 18-year-old said: “It kind of takes your breath away.

“You can imagine people rocking in and it filling up and people creating as much noise as you can possibly imagine.

“It was good to be out there with the lads, just walking across the turf and seeing what it’s like. This is the first time I’ve been on the pitch.

“I’ve been here many times as a fan and it’s a brilliant place. I was here for the finals against Warrington and Wigan as a spectator. On game day it is going to be a buzz like you can’t really explain to people. I am looking forward to that.

“I have imagined what it’d be like to be here as a player and still being a young lad, it is good for it to have come so soon.

“To be here straight away, I am relishing it, just every opportunity I get to come out here and perform.”

Asked if he can handle the big-match nerves, Ward said: “I think I will do. I do get nervous, I think about games and I want to play well.

“There’s a lot of hype and it is a Challenge Cup final, but the game doesn’t change.

“It is a game of rugby league and I am going to have to try my best, just like I have done all the way through the season.

“I just need to get an early touch or an early tackle to get into the game.”

Ward has been rooming with Rhinos’ injured half-back Danny McGuire.

“He has been tipping me up,” he said. “It’s unfortunate he’s not playing, but he is giving me all the help he can.”

The teenager revealed he will be listening to music by Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails and Jay-Z as he prepares for today’s game.

It has already been a big month for Ward, who received his successful ‘A’ Level results last week, but he reckons today’s game will be more nerve-racking than the wait for the outcome of his exams.

“I’d probably have got a slap around the ear if I’d done badly in my ‘A’ Levels,” he said. “I am 18, I am just going to do my best, try and get a bite of the apple and see what happens.

William Hill have Ward at 25-1 to win the Lance Todd Trophy award as man of the match. Warrington are 4/11 favourites to win the final, with Rhinos at 12/5 and given an eight-point start on the handicap coupon.

Lee Briers is the Lance Todd favourite, with Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow Rhinos’ shortest-priced players at 9/1.

Warrington’s Joel Monaghan and Chris Riley and Rhinos’ Ryan Hall are 15/2 joint-favourites to score the first try.

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