Coach Damian Neill op­ti­mistic about fu­ture of rugby in Malta

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Henry Brin­cat

Malta coach Damian Neill is con­vinced that Malta has a bright fu­ture as more lo­cal play­ers are do­ing their best to earn se­lec­tion in the na­tional squad.

Speak­ing dur­ing a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, three days ahead of next Satur­day’s clash against Cyprus at the Hiber­ni­ans Sta­dium, Neill said that it was very pos­i­tive to see a num­ber of young­sters mak­ing them­selves avail­able to train with the na­tional squad to make a pool of 32 to choose from.

Neill added that the record score against An­dorra last week was another big pos­i­tive for Mal­tese rugby and this was very en­cour­ag­ing.

“That was a very good ex­pe­ri­ence for the lo­cal young­sters who took part in that match,” said Neill.

He added: “Against Cyprus on Satur­day we should be the stronger team, but we will need all the sup­port we can get from the fans to be able to ob­tain another vic­tory.”

Satur­day’s game forms part of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship Con­fer­ence South 1 in the new for­mat start­ing from this com­pe­ti­tion. The group win­ners will then face the win­ners of the North Group to earn pro­mo­tion.

New Malta Rugby Foot­ball Union pres­i­dent Steve Busut­til said he was pleased to have started the sea­son on such a top note, re­fer­ring, of course, to the 6315 record win against An­dorra.

Busut­til is a for­mer player, for­mer ref­er­ees and for­mer na­tional team man­ager.

“We are all very proud of this achieve­ment and we look for­ward with op­ti­mism, know­ing that we al­ready have a solid squad with sev­eral oth­ers push­ing for in­clu- sion,” he said.

This was the first oc­ca­sion he was speak­ing about the na­tional team as pres­i­dent of the MRFU. He also ap­pealed to the fans to at­tend Satur­day’s match. He said: “It should be fun for all the fam­ily. Their pres­ence – they are our 16th man - will also be a sort of much needed fi­nan­cial back­ing for the as­so­ci­a­tion.”

He went on to thank the spon­sors with­out whose help, such re­sults would not be pos­si­ble.

Busut­til said that among his pri­or­i­ties as new pres­i­dent are the up­grad­ing of the Marsa fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the club house, im­prove­ment of the youth pro­gramme.

“Other things in­clude the con­sol­i­da­tion of what we have to­day and hope­fully that we will have two di­vi­sions with pos­si­bly rel­e­ga­tion and pro­mo­tion to see even more mo­ti­va­tion from the lo­cal play­ers,” he said.

MRFU vice pres­i­dent Joe Borda is ex­pect­ing a good crowd on Satur­day to help the lo­cals with their usual strong sup­port.

He went on to say that the MRFU is also work­ing hard on the five nurs­eries which have pro­duced 120 youths.

“Now we are in the process of preparing the Un­der 18 side (ev­ery Satur­day) for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in that age group.”

The match on Satur­day kicks off at 2pm. The Hibs Sta­dium Gates will open at 12.30pm.

The Marsa and Qawra Scout groups will be entertaining the crowd.

Malta rugby na­tional team coach Damien Neill speaks at the press con­fer­ence.

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