King Neill

Saturday, May 1, 2010, 18:00

by Sandro Micallef

The Malta Rugby Football Union has striven over the past years to promote Rugby in every way possible and has come a long way since National Rugby Team’s first international official appearance in 2000 which i still remember vividly. Ten years on and both the MRFU and the Malta National team have grown from strength to strength.

The Maltese government is closely monitoring rugby's success

The last game played by our National Team against Latvia in front of the enthusiastic home crowd, had a happy ending for all those involved in the local Rugby scene. This home win continued to confirm the potential of this team led by Damien Neill. I recall the Welshman stating in his first press announcement, when he was presented as the official National team coach and Technical Director, that he will do his best to get results but will also work to try improve the local game. After a couple of international games (some with positive results) Neil had been pressured to  gradually introduce more local based players so that they too can gain the required experience.

Many had criticized the MRFU for competing with Maltese born players playing and living overseas namely in Australia and in England. The same critics had tried to minimize the great achievements that this team was registering, especially when at that time we were still in the 3rd Division of the FIRA Championships and were gradually making our way up.

King Neill managed to prove  his critics wrong, as an incredible number of Maltese players who play in the local league were being called up and eventually gained their international caps.

Malta Rugby National Coach Damien "King" Neil

Malta Rugby National Coach Damien "King" Neill

Some local sports fans who occasionally follow rugby ask: why is it that the MRFU does not organize international friendly games on a quarterly basis, as is the case with football, so as to keep up the rugby fever?

The answer is very simple. The MRFU till now doesn’t have its own stadium, so whenever an official international match is organized it has to rent out one. On top of that, if we want to maintain our rankings, we need to be competitive even in these friendly games, and Neill would request that some Maltese born players playing abroad should be brought to Malta to be part of the team … Due to lack of finances, the answer by the MRFU President, Martin Galea, would most probably be a No!

A good option would be to organize regular  friendlies for the so called Malta A Team, which is a sort of  Malta National Team composed of players who participate in the Cisk Lager MRFU 1st Division League. The issue of finances once again crops up. I have heard stories in the past that players who were called up to participate in a friendly tournament in Italy had to pay all the expenses. This is not fair !

Finally I congratulate again my friend King Damien Neill for his success at the helm of our National Team. Keep up the good work Damien and keep monitoring the foundations of Rugby in schools as you are doing on a regular basis.





3 Comments

  1. Podol says:

    I confirm re expenses payed by players in Italy cause I was part of that team but beleive me it’s was worth every penny spent. A memorable experience I ll never forget. Let’s keep Maltese Rugby on Top. Well done to MRFU and Forza Kavallieri:)

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  2. Gail Debono says:

    Great Article! Big Well Done to all!!

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  3. Mike Turner says:

    Thank you Sandro, great article, “King” Damian had built on the legacy of all the coaches since 2000, Len Ethell, Ben Bennett who notched up the first two wins, and Graham Richards, and has created a sound platform for this game to which the Maltese youth are so well suited.

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