Rugby / European Nations Cup
Israel's national rugby team visits Andorra tomorrow for its first away match in Division 2B of the European Nations Cup.
"We'll have to play like men, tougher and more aggressive than ever," Israel coach Raanan Penn said this week.
The 48-22 victory over Serbia last week at the Wingate Institute stadium was crushing and convincing, but the match against Andorra is a whole different ball game. Lacking its vociferous home fan base, the team will be going up against one of the most veteran squads at this level. Andorra is known for playing tough and dirty.
The first step that will give Israel an advantage on the pitch will be getting the ball out and away from the tackle area. Scrum-half Eitan Humphries, alongside captain Julian Maffi will need to work hard to move the ball quickly and intensively from the first minute to force the Andorrans to leave their comfort zone, thereby countering the moves upon which Israel's opponent bases its game.
On defense, the first key is aggressiveness. Modi Radshkovits, Misha Eli, Matan Brosh and the rest of the team must press quickly to stop the ball getting out of any ruck, or to challenge from the first pass with a strong and accurate tackle.
Andorra's offense is organized and aggressive but it is also relatively standard. An early successful tackle would be enough to mess up their fixed game plan.
The weather should also play a role. The optimal forecast is 10 degrees centigrade with a chance of rain. A wet pitch would hinder efforts to play an open, speedy game with a lot of passes and would favor the hosts' style of play.
Victory would put Israel on top of Division 2B and in good position to advance to the next stage, with two more home games remaining this year against Latvia and Denmark. The team that finishes in first place will advance to the World Cup qualifiers.