Two more nations start on the road to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup when the southern section of European Championship C kicks off tomorrow (Saturday) with Malta hosting Ukraine at the Marsa Sports Complex (kick off 5pm local time). Ukraine, who have never lost at this level in six matches, will start as favourites but the hosts, who have four heritage players in their line-up, are confident of making an impact against opponents they have never faced.
“I believe we have prepared for this game the best we can, the bulk of the squad have been together for three months,” said Malta head coach Sam Blyton-Keep. “I have selected a strong squad of mainly local players, a lot on their debut, and am certain they will do our country proud.”
Knights captain Matthew Camilleri added: “We are ready, we can’t wait to get out there. There is a terrific bond between the boys and we want to show what we can do. This could be huge for our nation.”
Greece are the other nation in the group.
The Ukraine squad gathered in Kharkov for a week before setting off in order to finalise their game plans. They will rely on a core of champions Legion XIII players, eight of whom have been gaining valuable experience with UK community side Milford Marlins in Leeds.
“We are expecting a very tough challenge against a side we don’t know too much about,” said head coach Gennady Veprik. “We will be counting on our more experienced players, the ones who have been recently been playing in England will be our backbone.”
His skipper Alexander Skorbach, one of the octet who have been based in Yorkshire, noted: “We are really looking forward to facing the Knights for the first time and to showing our best face. If we do, we are confident that we can maintain our honour and return home as victors.”
MALTA SIDE: 1. Nathan Falzon (Nowra-Bomaderry); 2. Jean Pierre Zarb (Falcons); 3. Jon Jon Micallef (Gladiators); 4. Matt Camilleri (c) (Stompers); 5. Shaun Chircop (Kavalleri); 6. Malcom Attard (Stompers); 7. Aaron Grech (Guildford); 8. Jeremy Dela (Malta Origin) ; 9. Jake Attard (Asquith) ; 10. Vince Farrugia (Falcons); 11. Ian Catania (Warilla); 12. Joseph Pio Mizzi (Gozo) 13. Tyson Freeman (Falcons); 14. Jamie Brincat Brockdorff (Wolves); 15. Nicky Maylor (Stompers); 16. Ben Naudi (Stompers); 17. Clive Sciberras (Wolves).
UKRAINE SQUAD: Sviatoslav Andrieichenko, Anatolii Hrankovskyi, Volodymyr Karpenko, Oleksandr Kozak, Serhii Kravchenko, Volodymyr Mazepa, Dmytro Semerenk, Oleksandr Shcherbyna, Oleksandr Skorbach, Oleksandr Syvokoz, Mykhailo Troian, Yevhenii Trusov, Bohdan Vepryk, Ihor Yurkin (Legion XIII, Kharkiv); Ostap Hryshcenko, Mykhailo Pavliv, Nazar Semion (Sokil, Lviv); Volodymyr Radchyk (RK, Rivne).