By Alexander McCowan
The Cyprus Moufflons face a formidable opponent when they meet Lithuania at the Paphiacos Stadium in Paphos on Saturday (3pm) in the European Rugby Nations Cup.
The Lithuanians are undefeated in Division 2B after being demoted last year and now play with a power and discipline that indicates they are in a hurry to regain their position.
The only country to beat Cyprus in the last six years is Latvia, who beat the Moufflons 39-20 in November, but who were in turn crushed by the Lithuanians 46-11 – which gives an indication of the strength of the side.
Laurence Vasilliades, president of the Cyprus Rugby Federation, said: “Before I comment on the game I wish to thank the Cyprus Mail for their loyal support over the last seven years when we went unrecognised by most of the football-mad Cypriot media, even when we were breaking world records and collecting trophies in Europe.
“Following our previous match against Hungary, I referred to concentrating on development and said that I would look to the business community for support.
“Well I can reveal that since then we have not only been sponsored by Group M150, but the game will be going out live on national television on Saturday on CyBC 2 and RIK Sat – a first for the Moufflons.
“As for the game itself, my coaching staff have put together the best side possible. We know we face the strongest opposition we have ever encountered: they are big, strong, well coached and disciplined but I believe we will match them in all these areas.
“This game is a tremendous opportunity for us to show the Europeans what we can do. A win will take us to second place in the division with every chance of promotion next year. I think we can do it.”
Phil Llewellyn, the national coach, speaking after a training session with the squad this week, was very pleased with the speed and handling of his backs.
“We are taking this game very seriously. There are no easy options with these guys, they play hard rugby and we have to be prepared for them.
“Quite frankly I value this type of game as it brings out the best in the lads and builds on their reservoir of experience.
“Who wants soft games? We’ve had a few of those, but from now on it’s all bloody serious and hardball. I don’t go in for predictions, but I’m sure we will acquit ourselves with honour and won’t let the country down.”
Lithuania were the previous holders of the world record for consecutive wins (17), which Cyprus capped by racking up an amazing 24 straight victories – a record that still stands.
Lithuania have a maximum of 15 points from three games, with Cyprus on 8 points after winning two of their first three games in the Division.
The gates open at the Paphiacos Stadium at 2pm. Admission is 10 euros, with infants and disabled admitted free.