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Malta vs Sweden: hopes for a home win 11/4/2009

Training for Saturday's match against Sweden

Malta’s rugby supporters are still hopeful in the run up to the much-anticipated European Division 2B Championship match against Sweden on Saturday, 7th November at Hibernians Ground, Paola.

Thousands of fans are expected at Hibernians Stadium to watch coach, Damian Neill’s new squad repeat last year’s victory, when Malta beat Sweden 9-6 in Vanersborg, breaking the home team’s winning streak. In spite of the squad’s 34-14 defeat against Croatia last Saturday, Malta are still third in the Division 2B standings, three points ahead of Sweden.

At the pre-match press conference hosted by sponsors of the Malta Rugby Football Union (MRFU), Cisk Lager and Mazda, Martin Galea – MRFU President, commented on Malta’s weekend result, “It’s always disappointing to lose, but we’re encouraged that Malta matched Croatia for most of the first half. That and the highest number of local Maltese players – 7 – in the starting line-up are reasons for optimism.”

Prior to the Croatia match, Neill’s squad travelled to Wales for a four-day training camp, supported by new team manager, Steve Busuttil.  Neill referred to great training conditions in Wales, but admitted concern about injuries, “We’re well aware of the Swedish squad’s development since last year, especially after their narrow loss against the Netherlands on Saturday (16-19).  But, we play to win whatever the circumstances and being at Hibs is a bonus,” he said.

Mr Galea also discussed the growing support for rugby as a sport in Malta. “It’s not just the senior teams that do us proud, but we have a fantastic ladies squad – 13th out of 43 in  Europe in last year’s Rugby 7’s. Our youth teams also continue to develop and we know we have some stars there. We applaud the commitment of our players, but equal thanks must go to the steadfast support of our sponsors. We could not continue as a national entity if it were not for the backing of all our Union sponsors and club sponsors,” he added.

As a sport, rugby continues to raise its head above the parapet as recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Rugby 7’s will feature for the first time at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Before this, Malta will be centre stage when rugby aficionados – delegates from 43 countries – will host the European Rugby Association Congress in Malta in June 2010.

The official Shirt Presentation will take place on Friday, 6th November, at 8pm at InterContinental Hotel, St Julian’s.

On Saturday 7th November, doors open at 12.30pm and kick off is at 3pm. Ticket Hotline is 9988 1266. For more information please visit www.maltarugby.com.