Albania will make their men’s senior international debut when they face Netherlands tomorrow (Saturday) at Zaandijk Rugby Club (kick off 2pm, local time). The Balkan nation has just completed a successful first season of domestic competition and now embark upon a quest for world ranking points.
Albania Rugby League president, Arnaldo Telo, commented: “This for us in itself will be a beautiful challenge, but will help us understand the actual level of our team and what we need to improve. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this match for our organization and future. We have a main sponsor, Volkswagen Albania, and it is important that we play against a team with a lot of experience, the average age of our squad is 23-24 years old.
“Our objective is to take part in the next Euro D tournament and to face the current holders is perfect. We have already confirmed a return match in Albania in October 2024 against Netherlands, to give the opportunity to our fans to be part of what we are building.”
The hosts defeated Norway 58-22 last weekend and Rotterdam Pitbull’s Soren van der Linden is in line to make his international debut.
Netherlands head coach, Dave Hunter, noted: “We’re looking forward to this weekend’s clash against Albania. It is a tremendous step forward to have another country playing our great sport and we are honoured to welcome them and celebrate this groundbreaking step for them.
“We had our first hit out last weekend and despite a decent scoreline, the performance was far from perfect and we are looking for improvement. Albania are an unknown quantity but we are expecting an enthusiastic and physical encounter, we cannot afford to take them lightly.”
Operations Manager, Matt Rigby added, Quote from Operations Manager, Matt Rigby;
“Saturday’s match will mark the first International match for Albania as we host them in Zaandijk. It is a tremendous step forward to have another country playing our great sport and we are honoured to welcome them to the Netherlands and celebrate this groundbreaking step for them. From the looks of things, they have had a very successful first year at home in their domestic competition and got the support of some attractive sponsors aswell. We wish Arnaldo and the team at Albania all the best for the future.”
“This weekend also provides an opportunity for one of our own. Hans Verveer who joined the match officials team after retirement from playing a number of years ago, has earned his call up to referee this contest. Hans’ development over the past few years since COVID has been fantastic, and we are very proud of his achievement in being selected for this match. Best of luck on your first international appointment Hans’! We hope it’s the first of many in a long successful match officials’ career.”
Albania include youngster Eliot Peposhi, son of head coach Arbian Peoposhi, who is currently on professional forms at Betfred Super League giants at St Helens.
Daan van Rossum, William Johnston (Amsterdam Cobras), Lucas Thomson (Cessnock Goannas), Tom van der Bokhoven (Cromer Kingfishers), Frank Longhurst, Maas van der Reek, Bonne Wilce, Hamish Wragg (Den Haag Knights), Harry Mulligan (The Entrance Tigers), Mitch Donnelly (Narrabeen Sharks), Shadan Lavia, Isaac Ngirubiu, Soren van der Linden (Rotterdam Pitbulls), Damon Koolstra (Souths Mackay Sharks), Benji van Bodegraven, Kees Kuijpers, Paul Kuijpers, Mike Prins, Laury Renac (Zwolle Wolves)
Albert Shehu (Ravenna Rugby), Elsajd Cubaj (Rugby Delebio), Eliot Peposhi (St. Helens), Arnaldo Telo, Cristian Kondi, Dajan Shatraj, Eugen Gucaj, Girsjan Priska, Klajdi Gucaj, Mariglen Nezaj, Neritan Tafili, Olban Llapaj, Orion Jucja, Shaban Penxho, Silvio Cela, Vahid Hoxha (Tirana Rugby Club), Ditmar Halla (RC Unterfohring), Andi Zeneli (Unattached)