The Norwegian and Maltese train-on squads have been announced for their Rugby League European Federation winner-takes-all European Bowl clash, at the Victor Tedesco Stadium in Hamrun, Malta on Friday, 4th June (kick off 7pm).
The encounter represents both nations’ debut in official international competition and cements the growing geographical spread of the game in Europe representing its northern and southern extremes.
Although the likes of Hull K.R.’s Michael Vella – who has already proudly represented the nation of his heritage – and recent Crusaders signing Jarrod Sammut are unlikely to play, their willingness to be included sends a message of support and solidarity for the continued spread of the sport domestically on the island and now in international circles.
It is likely that Halifax’s Luke Branighan, who has already won two caps, will also be required by his club but there is experience in the shape of Gateshead’s Chris Parker and Parramatta’s 18 year old centre Charlie Bonanno.
Knights have lost Daryl Psaila and Roderick Attard with season-ending injuries but Micallef is still confident the squad will be competitive.
“We’re giving the European Bowl all the respect it deserves; however, rightly so, we hold high expectations for the competition,” he said.
“This will be a learning curve for many players who may be a prominent member of our squad over the coming years. It is also a chance for those in the domestic competition to test themselves at a higher level and we could have as many as 15 debutants.”
Norway’s selection is based around the three clubs who have just kicked off in the Norwegian Championship but the Vikings expect to mount stiff opposition.
Former London Skolar Warren Heilig, who has been at the development helm in Oslo since 2009, has named a 24-man squad, 20 of whom are born and bred Norwegians, drawn largely from the players who have participated in the Scandinavian country’s three fixtures to date.
Their most recent outing, against a Barbarian side consisting mostly of Australian, British and New Zealand players, produced a stunning 76-16 victory, and followed that with a solid 28-26 international friendly triumph against neighbouring Denmark.
“Going to Malta is a big step for us and we are working hard at getting our squad ready for the toughest challenge they have ever had in their lives,” commented Heilig.
“Tough back rowers Erlend Meldalen and Erlend Røysum are set to fire, while Peter Engeland and Kristoffer Borsheim will guide the team around the park.”
“All we expect out of this match is to go in 100% and really test ourselves on the world stage,” continued Heilig. “After that we will have a pretty good indication on where we are at and how we can improve and climb the ladder as a League playing nation.”
“I know that myself and all the boys are chomping at the bit to get the game underway, put some good shots on and give the crowd a great show”.
MALTA TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Malcolm Attard, Jonathan Bonnici, Peter Bradley, Calvin Briffa, Daniel Grima Joss Howland Chris Morton, Sergio Pisani, Chris Sammut, Mark Seychell, Matthew Spagnol, Vince Stivala, Andrew Zammit Manduca (all North – MRL Championship), Graham Attard, Clayton Cassar, Mark Cortis John Micallef Moreno, Dario Schembri, Josef Zahra (all South – MRL Championship), Paul Bartlett , Shaun Bartlett ( Cardiff Demons), Charlie Bonanno (Parramatta Eels), Paul Borg (Widnes St Maries), Ryan Borg (Thirroul), Luke Branighan (Halifax), Bradley Clews (Blacktown City), Pierre Camilleri (Toulouse), Paul Marzella (Hammersmith Hill Hoists), Chris Parker (Gateshead Thunder), Brendan Russell (Brothers, Mackay), Jarrod Sammut (Crusaders), Luke Sant (Hammersmith Hill Hoists), Mario Vella (SKG Gran Parma), Michael Vella (Hull KR), Luke Watts (Coventry Bears), Zack Williams (Easts, Brisbane)
Peter Engeland, Cameron Leslie, Fredrik Skovly (c), Glenn Patterson, Anders Linnestå, Andreas Thorsen, Kristian Berntzen, Andreas Fyri (all Oslo Rugby Klubb), Bjørn Mikkelsen, Magne Kleven, Isaac Schmidt, Erik Sonny Mellor, Tommy Kjøniksen, Kristian Ytterdahl Elgheim, Erik Schou, Omar Bagdahdi, Eirik Smidt Sagstuen, Martin Smidt Sagstuen (all Lillestrom Lions), Trym Alexander Vindahl, Kristoffer Borsheim, Erlend Loftesnes Røysum, Erlend Granly Meldalen, Joshua William Skidmore Hornby, Gareth Turton (all Oslo City Seagulls)