Local Sport > Rugby > MALTA KNIGHTS TO FACE LEBANON IN MAY

MALTA KNIGHTS TO FACE LEBANON IN MAY

The Malta Knight, will take on Lebanon in an international friendly rugby in Sydney this May.

The May 3 weekend has been blocked off by the NRL as an international representative round that includes Australia taking on New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium and Samoa meeting Tonga at the Gold Coast.

After the political and security unrest in the middle-eastern country, Lebanon played their last international in Sydney last October, a 40-28 loss to a star-studded Fiji team.

Malta, who currently sit in 24th place in the RLIF world rankings, will use a largely overseas based squad and national team coach Anthony Micallef will stay on in Malta in preparation for the domestic season and Malta’s June 21 international against Belgium in Leeds.

The MRL has appointed a four-coach staff for the match in Sydney and will use the match to introduce a number of Australia based Maltese players that Micallef otherwise struggles to implement in his European Championship squads due to domestic quota regulations that limit the number of overseas based players in a national team.

The regulations, such as for 2015’s European Championship, limit Micallef to using no more than four overseas based players, leaving the majority of team selections to come from Malta’s thriving five-team domestic competition.

But in Australia and England, the MRL has an abundance of eligible players, including at the highest level in the NRL and Super League.

“You’ve got Maltese eligible players that have come through the NRL systems from a young age. Because our international season is at the same time as the Australian season, it’s difficult for a number of our players to put their hand up for Malta selection” said Micallef.

“This match in Sydney is the opportunity for these players to gain a representative honour with the MRL and for us to introduce them to the MRL system”

Despite their established competition in Lebanon, the Lebanese federation also has a strong setup based in Australia where they too have an abundance of eligible players playing in the NSW and Queensland competitions.

The match on May 3 is expected to attract a bumper crowd with Maltese and Lebanese migrants holding a robust presence in Sydney’s multicultural community.

Micallef says he will keep a keen eye on proceedings in Sydney, commenting “I’m keen to monitor the players’ performances in the match in Sydney. There’s already a couple of players being considered, but there’s a good opportunity for some players to be added to the list for consideration to join the squad here in Malta in September”

“Things are warming up here in Malta too. Our national squad comes together next week and it’s quite a busy seven months ahead of us”
Micallef’s locally based players will start training together next week for the first time since the winter off-season ahead of the busy summer schedule of fixtures.

The MRL’s introduction of a national squad is to be announced to the public next month, a concept that will include a new coaching staff working with 10 appointed national squad players.
 
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