Malta rugby coach Damien Neill has called on his players to cut out “silly” defensive mistakes as they step up their preparations for tomorrow’s FIRA-AER Division 2A match against the Czech Republic at the Hibs Stadium.
Last weekend, the Maltese went down 34-27 to Croatia in Split, a defeat that left them second from bottom in their group.
Neill was left frustrated after Malta gifted their opponents two tries in the first half.
With group favourites the Czech Republic up next tomorrow, the Welsh coach warned his players that they risk being severely punished if they lower their guard.
“I was bitterly disappointed with the outcome of our match in Croatia,” Neill told a news conference yesterday.
“We dominated the match in terms of possession but committed some silly defensive mistakes that handed two tries to our opponents and that proved fatal for us.”
“At international level, you cannot afford lapses in concentration and this week we worked hard with the players to ensure that we show more consistency in our performance against the Czech Republic,” Neill added.
“The Czechs are the strongest team in the group. They are a big, strong and physical side who will surely try to dominate from set-pieces and we need to be focused throughout the match or else risk suffering a heavy defeat.”
Neill will be without two key players as winger James O’Brien is out with a shoulder injury while James Morris is hampered by a knee problem.
On the plus side, the Malta coach is hopeful of having Dan Apsee back after skipping the Croatia match through injury.
In Split, Neill fielded several home-based players with Aaron Borg, Samuel Zammit and Matthew Spiteri all making their debuts.
The Malta coach said he was encouraged with the performance of the newcomers but expressed his disappointment that most of them are struggling to honour their international commitments as getting time off from work is proving difficult.
“We are encouraged to see young Maltese players coming into the squad and showing great potential,” Neill said.
“In Croatia, we gave a debut to a few players and they did very well.
“My only concern is that they are struggling to get permission from their employers to attend training sessions with the national team in the run-up to international matches.
“Attending just one training session is simply not enough to gel with your team-mates ahead of an international and that inevitably is exposed when facing high-quality opposition.
“I hope that a solution is found or else the future of these players would be severely compromised.”
Neill said a win tomorrow was imperative to help the team obtain a good placing at the end of the Division 2A campaign in April and guarantee a favourable draw in the 2016-18 European Championships which will have a new format.
“This is the last season we are playing in the FIRA-AER championships under this format,” Neill said.
“Next month, the European governing body is set to announce changes to the qualifying format and from the information we have obtained so far, it seems that countries will be split into north and south regions which will be made up of four divisions each.
“So, for us, it will be important to get the best results possible from the last three matches to ensure a good placing before the championships are revamped.”
D. Holliday, H. Collins, T. Galdes, D. Deguara, C. Cassar, D. Apsee, M. Davey, L. Watts, R. Holloway, T. Holloway, M. Camilleri, D. Busuttil, T. Quarendon, V. Stivala, J. Kirk, S. Zammit, J. Ellul, M. Spiteri, C. Briffa, J. Galea, B. Borg, M. Cordle, L. Matthews, A. Borg, A. Harvey, L. Galea.
Switzerland (5-0-1) 23; Czech Republic (3-1-1) 18; Croatia (3-0-3) 17; Malta (2-0-3) 10; Israel (0-1-5) 4.
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