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National team up to 41st in IRB list

Malta played a blinder last weekend as they beat Lithuania in a European Nations Cup qualifier at the Hibs Stadium. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta played a blinder last weekend as they beat Lithuania in a European Nations Cup qualifier at the Hibs Stadium. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta’s 34-17 win over Lithuania in a Nations Cup 2014 Division 2A qualifier in Corradino on Saturday saw the national team going seven places up in the world rankings and now the side coached by Damien Neill is at a new high of 41st.

The world governing body International Rugby Board (IRB) issued its latest list of rankings yesterday following last weekend’s round of qualifiers from the European championship which doubles as the region’s qualification process for the 2015 World Cup.

There were 33 positional changes in the IRB ladder with Malta the highest climbers after a convincing show at the Hibs Stadium that gave the national team their first victory in the group having conceded a narrow 19-20 defeat away to Croatia the week before.

On Saturday, Malta garnered useful points for ranking purposes also thanks to the fact that victory came against a higher-ranked nation. In fact, Lithuania are currently two places ahead of Malta in the world list.

The Division 2A campaign in Europe has just got underway with Malta now topping the standings ahead of Switzerland on point differential after the latter also upset a higher-ranked team at home, beating Croatia 29-20 in Nyon on Saturday.

The fifth team in Division 2A are The Netherlands who play their first match away to Lithuania on Saturday before their home clash with Switzerland a week later.

Switzerland’s win last weekend resulted in a three-place elevation to 53rd. Croatia’s first defeat of the new Nations Cup campaign meant they fell three places to 42nd, one slot behind Malta.

Another big climber in the latest IRB rankings, still led by Southern Hemisphere giants New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in that order, were Andorra, the only team to win away from home last week after they edged Serbia 26-23.

Andorra climb six places to 61st, while Serbia drop five to 74th.

Meanwhile, the victorious team with the smallest climb of the week was Norway. They rise one place to 92nd on the back of a tight 11-9 win over Bosnia.

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