Malta face stern test in Rugby World Cup qualifier against strong Swiss squad on April 6 at Hibs ground

Malta’s successful national rugby players who have been taking Maltese sport to a new level over the last few years, face a stiff test against in-form Switzerland on April 6 at Hibs ground, where over 4000 local supporters are expected to be cheering them on.

8 March 2013, 12:00am
Malta’s National Rugby Union team face Switzerland in a World Cup Qualifying match at Hibs Stadium on April 6. Photo: D. Aquilina.
Malta’s National Rugby Union team face Switzerland in a World Cup Qualifying match at Hibs Stadium on April 6. Photo: D. Aquilina.
Despite a world ranking high of 40th, they expect to be well tested by a well-organised and methodical Swiss team, who enjoy a strong away record. After their last victory against Lithuania, the Malta team know they will have to be at their best to hold the competitive Swiss, who have a player base ten times that of Malta, with over 6000 registered players in their ranks.

Inspiration comes in the form of Malta's National Ladies Team who beat Switzerland 'Barbarians' in the final of an international tournament in February, and now the men look to emulate their female counterparts by giving Switzerland a warm reception here in Malta. This game will be a critical one, knowing that both teams are playing for World Cup 2015 berths as well as position in FIRA's European Nations Cup Division 2A.

Malta Director of Rugby and National Coach, Damian Neill, was cautiously optimistic, saying, "We played Switzerland in my first game as National Coach in 2005, we know what they can do and the squad will put in all the necessary intensive training to prepare for this match. The Maltese squad's average age has fallen from 34 to early 20's, we now have a better base on which to contest big games like this. Malta's Rugby Union has swelled from 70 to approximately 600 members, excluding the thousands of children who have experienced the game through our Schools Festivals orchestrated by Daniel Holliday with the support of our youth sponsors GasanMamo. Back in 2005 there were just four local rugby teams, today there are 17, along with an array of youth squads, we are now more competitive with this player base growing."

Neill continued, "The general public's interest has also exploded. Our international rugby matches regularly attract 3,000 supporters and more. We look forward to having the fans behind us on April 6 and to having an atmosphere that will lift our players even further for the match. ''

This fervent Maltese support was re-iterated by Malta Rugby President Martin Galea who said, "Rugby is a spectacular game to watch and our boys will put on a great showing in what will be a tight and exciting match. The support of our extraordinary home crowd will only add to the event. I must thank our sponsors especially Mediterranean Bank who have renewed their support for the Union and allow us to continue to participate in these European championships where we have an enviable track record and achieved record placings.

After being runner up last year for 'the team of the year', Damian Neill received this year's KMS award for 'the official of the year'. In 2012, the Malta Rugby Union team won 3 out of 4 games in the European Nations Championships and reached their highest world ranking to date.

The next international match against Switzerland will take place at the Hibernians Football Stadium on April 6, kick-off at 2.00pm. For further information visit www.maltarugby.com or call 9988 1266.