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Crucible set to host enthralling encounter between Welsh wizards


Welsh potting pair Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens will collide at the Crucible in their first round matches in a repeat of the 2000 World Snooker Championship final

The Crucible is set to host an all-Welsh thriller in a World Snooker Championship first round match-up between two of the sport’s most experienced potters, as Mark Williams faces fellow countryman Matthew Stevens.

In what will be a repeat of the enthralling 2000 world final, where Williams edged past Stevens with an 18-16 triumph, both Welsh wizards are aiming to secure a victory in this long-standing rivalry on the baize.

‘The Welsh Wonder’ Williams is a best priced 5/4 with Coral to win the race to four frames, while ‘the Dragon’ Stevens is a 12/5 chance with Bet365 to secure a first round triumph.

These experienced cueists hold a rivalry that dates back to 1997, but their highest profiled clash came in 2000, when Williams toppled his fellow Welshman to lift a maiden Crucible crown, one of two world final defeats for 37-year-old Stevens in his impressive career.

Two-time world champion Williams also overcame his close rival in the UK Championship final, several months before their thrilling Sheffield meeting, with Steven’s constant conqueror holding a narrow lead in the head-to-head record as well. Williams has prevailed in the last five consecutive competitive meetings between the potting pair and is a 10/1 chance with Bet Victor to emerge victorious from a deciding frame at 10-9.

Meanwhile, last year’s beaten finalist and five-time Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan gets off the mark in Sheffield against Craig Steadman, and Northern Irishman Mark Allen contest another Welsh potter Ryan Day.

‘The Rocket’ has never played Steadman in a competitive clash before but is an obvious heavy favourite, as he aims to move closer to Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles with a win in Sheffield this year. Crowd favourite Ronnie is a 33/1 chance with Boylesports to inflict a whitewash (10-0) defeat on ‘Rock Steady’ Steadman, who is making his Crucible debut, having beaten Rhys Clark, Michael White and Jamie Burnett to reach the prestigious Yorkshire event.

‘The Pistol’ Allen is yet to reach his true potential on the baize by securing one of snooker’s biggest titles, but the confident cueist is 12/5 with Paddy Power to hold a 5-4 advantage from the first session in his first opening meeting with ‘Dynamite’ Day.

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