Israel Rugby: Israel Hosts Malta, Hoping to Keep Promotion Prospects Alive

Blue-and-whites need heroic effort and a Malta loss to Andorra to qualify for the promotion playoff

Israel rugby players.
Nir Keidar

Israel’s national Rugby 15 squad hosts Malta at Wingate on Saturday for the Rugby International European Championships.

The two sides play in the third-tier Conference 1 South group. Israel is currently second in the group with nine points, while Malta not only leads the group with 10 points but also has a game in hand. To have a chance to finish first in the group and qualify for the promotion playoff, Israel must not only win but also earn bonus points, which it can do by laying down four or more tries. However, such a heroic effort might still not be enough, as Malta can clinch first place with a victory in its final group match against Andorra, which is currently fourth.

Malta boasts a strong, well-organized and quick squad. Most of its athletes play for British rugby clubs that are either fully professional or semi-professional.

The young coach Amir Beutler, a former member of Israel’s squad, will lead the team for the first time. Veteran coach Raanan Penn will be on the sidelines alongside Beutler.

Israel’s top players are Ori Abutbul and Uri Gaiel, who both recently returned from South Africa, where they played for Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University team. The two are expected to lead the squad with veteran captain Gilad Goldstein, who led his team Jezreel-Gilboa last week to Israel’s state championship.