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MRFU focused on young blood as Malta face Bulgaria

Malta Rugby eyes strong start against Bulgaria.

The Malta rugby national team embarks on a new campaign in the FIRA-AER Conference South 1 when they host Bulgaria at the Tony Bezzina Stadium this afternoon (start: 2pm).

This will be the first full campaign for the national team in international rugby since the COVID-19 pandemic and there are great hopes that this time around the Maltese national team can produce another strong showing and battle for promotion come the end of the campaign.

The Malta Rugby Football Union heads into this year’s international window under a new administration after Robert Portelli was elected as the new president of the governing body.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, Portelli said that there are great expectations for Malta’s start of its European campaign this weekend.

“We are heading into this year’s Conference South 1 campaign with a lot of optimism,” Portelli said.

“On paper, it looks as though that we have the strongest national team in our group which also includes Bulgaria, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Israel but we need to prove that also on the pitch.

“Bulgaria are the new boys in this division and will surely be looking to try and prove a point but we have also our
qualities and I am confident that our players can make the country proud and start the campaign with a convincing
victory.”

Portelli said that the MRFU has lined up a new strategy that is focused on nurturing more homegrown talent to ensure there is a bright future for the game of rugby in Malta.

“Previous administrations had set sights on achieving huge objectives, such as qualifying for a rugby world cup but our union does not have the financial resources to set sights on such objectives,” Portelli said.

“This new administration is focused on strengthening the grassroots sector in Malta. We want to see more locally-based players develop their talents with a view of donning the Maltese national team shirt. In fact, for this weekend’s match against Bulgaria, we will have at least seven homegrown players in the squad and that is a great positive.

“I’m pleased to see that the local clubs are fully behind our project and in the coming weeks we will step up our
drive to reach this important objective.”

Asked how he plans to implement this key objective, Portelli said Malta Rugby aims to restart development competitions.

“We are planning to work a lot on creating opportunities for young players. In Malta, there are several young Maltese players who struggle to play regular rugby, and in this regard we are going to re-introduce a development competition, that will see clubs field young players who are on the fringes of their senior team.

“Added to that we are going to restart our youth programmes on Saturday morning and more importantly we will also be heading to schools around Malta and Gozo to promote the game. We know that there is a lot of work to be done but there is a lot of enthusiasm in the new administration and that fills me with optimism that we can take the game of rugby forward in the coming months.”

MALTA SQUAD

Rhodri Apsee, Thomas Davey, Dragan Cerketa, Cameron Sultana, Martin Barbara, Daniel Apsee, Mark Davey, Jon Jon Micallef, Thomas Holloway, Robert Holloway, Brendan Dalton, Christopher Dudman, Philippe Ioffi, Jethro Zammit Randrich, Matthew Spiteri, Nicholas Azzopardi, Karol Spiteri, Gary Hili, Kyle Gauci, Matthew Camilleri, Mariano Cutajar.

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