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Neill demands improved display from Maltese side

Damian Neill (second from left) addresses the media at Hibernians stadium. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Damian Neill (second from left) addresses the media at Hibernians stadium. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Following last week’s 52-20 rout of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Malta Rugby team, ranked 42, will be striving to extend their perfect start as they will host 54th–ranked Croatia in their second test of the 2018 Europe Conference 1 South group.

While last Saturday’s result underlined Malta’s technical superiority over the Bosnians, coach Damian Neill feels that his team did not put up a very positive performance and is demanding a much-improved display come tomorrow.

“Last week’s result was a very positive one given we tallied 52 points, however we were not at our best throughout the whole match, though when we were, we showed that we had the edge over them,” Neill said.

“While we have to give credit to our opponents who managed to end the second half at 12-12, we have to perform much better against a strong Croatia side.”

Like Malta, Croatia opened their commitments last weekend with a 32-17 victory over Israel.

Asked about what is he expecting from the Croatians, Neill highlighted the fact that they’ve been facing the Balkan side regularly in the past 12 years.

“We have been facing this side regularly and although some players may be replaced with other newcomers, their level absolutely remains a very high one,” Neil underlined.

“I am excepting a good battle between these sides and I feel that the only advantage that we will have is our home crowd which will definitely give us a huge boost throughout the whole match.

We have to show utmost respect to a nation who is investing heavily in rugby with their U-20 side also managing to achieve remarkable results in major tournaments.”

Meanwhile, the English coach expressed his concerns about the lack of international games, which hinders him from meeting his players regularly and from providing international challenges to his roster.

“Firstly, I think last week’s rust was a result of our lack of games together, therefore a bit of chemistry might not be polished and this was visible in our mindset and also in game situations such as too many unforced errors,” Neill revealed.

“In fact, prior to the Bosnia game we trained for a couple of sessions only and then went to face an unknown opponent.

Nonetheless, I have to give credit to my players who keep themselves active prior to international games, either by competing locally or by playing abroad.”

While Croatia will be without some of their starting men due to long-term injuries, Neill was able to confirm all the players that took part in the Bosnia game will also be available tomorrow.

Moreover, the MRFU chief Steve Busuttil announced that they are also boosting the women’s game as both the U-20 and Senior side will be heading to Italy next year to feature in a set of international games which will serve them as an experience to absorb the ‘big-game’ mentality.

The effort put by the MRFU into the development of the game was mirrored by the remarkable feet of the Malta School of Rugby whose participants now have the opportunity to receive a certificate of level 3, which is recognized both in Malta and in Europe. It was the first sports organization in Malta to take such step.

The  MRFU is also active outside the field of play, embarking on several projects in the interest of developing the game such as the construction of a new complex next to Hibernians Stadium, the addition of a stand on pitch 1 at the Marsa Sports Ground and the relocation to a new clubhouse in the near future.

Playing tomorrow
2018 Europe Conference 1 South
Hibs Stadium
Malta vs Croatia - 14.00

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