Malta Rugby League (MRL) has announced agreements with both Turkish Rugby League Association (TRL) and Federazione Italiana Rugby League (FIRL) to play two full international matches in October. The both games have been sanctioned by the Rugby League International Federation.
Malta is ranked 16th in the most recent world rankings, Italy is ranked 13th and Turkey, who are relative newcomers are ranked 31st but enjoyed a very successful Emerging Nations World Championship in 2018 which was won by Malta.
First up, on October 12th, Malta will play Italy at a venue in Sydney which is yet to be confirmed. The last time these two neighboring countries met was in 2017 when they played out a 24-24 draw at Marconi Stadium.
Organisers have confirmed that both nations will field U16’s and U18’s squads in curtain-raiser games before the main fixture.
On October 26th, in a contest which has been dubbed "The Great Siege", Malta Knights and Turkey will do battle once more, however this time it will not take place around the fortifications of Valletta’s Grand Harbour as it did over 450 years ago, but in another challenging arena altogether - the modern-day rugby league field at New Era Stadium, Cabramatta.
“The group has been itching to get back together and play Test Match Football” MRL President Jean Pierre Zarb said after the announcement.
“We’ve been pursuing games for a while now and this one shapes to be a competitive match. We are also keen to meet the Italians again in both Sicily and Malta to contest a Cross-Mediterranean Club Challenge later down the track” he added.
The October test will also serve as a valuable lead up for the Azzurri before their 2021 Rugby League World Cup Qualification campaign in Europe later in the year under new Head Coach and Western Suburbs Magpies General Manager Leo Epifania.
Turkey coach Scott Hartas is excited to assemble his troops for the first time since their Emerging Nations success last year. "This is a great opportunity to see where we are at," he said.
"We put in some good performances last year, but I'm keen to see how the team responds when we add a couple of our NRL boys, Canberra Raiders Aidan Sezer and Emre Guler into the mix".
MRL General Manager David Axisa heaped praise on his opponents as TRLA’s emergence as a Rugby League organisation has impressed many Internationalists in recent times.
I held some productive discussions with their president Gurol Yildiz during last year’s World Championship tournament, as did our President Jean Pierre Zarb at May’s RLEF congress in Istanbul.
We’re equally excited that terms for this test match have been agreed to.
"Malta’s players and coaching staff are really looking forward to this one. It’s a historical game which will no doubt have some feeling attached to it" Axisa added.
Saturday 12th October 2019
Malta vs Italy
Stadium TBC - Sydney
Kick Off 2.30pm
Malta vs Italy U16’s: 11.15am
Malta vs Italy U16’s 12.45pm
Malta v Turkey.
Saturday 26 October 2019
New Era Stadium, 24 Sussex St, Cabramatta NSW 2166
Kick Off 2pm local time