Saturday at the Wingate stadium, Israel faces Malta in the European Nations Cup 15-a-side men’s rugby.
April is the month that will decide which team leads the table and which will be last. Both Israel and Malta need a victory to pull themselves up from the bottom of the table, a sign of the importance of this match to both teams. The loser of tomorrow’s match will find itself fighting against relegation, with Israel (0-0-2, 0 points) visiting Division 2A leader Czech Republic (3-0-0, 14 points) and Malta (1-0-1, 4 points) hosting Switzerland (1-0-1, 5 points) next weekend.
Malta has been in the higher levels of the European rugby rankings for many years. The team enjoys many sponsors, a home crowd of between 3,000 to 5,000 fans and more experience at these levels of rugby than Israel. They are a well-balanced and well-coached squad, according to Israel rugby officials.
The Maltese finished a week-long training camp in England yesterday. Among their players are many that play in the strong English, Welsh and Australian leagues. They also boast one of the best kickers in European rugby, who punishes Malta’s opponents for every mistake.
Israel comes to this match with a reduced squad, with some of the veterans injured and some younger players filling the ranks, but with an aggressive, dynamic, fit team.
“Our aim is to play high-pressure, fast and tough rugby,” said one team official.