By Alexander McCowan
THE Cyprus rugby team were demolished 31-3 by Latvia in Paphos at the beginning of the month in a lacklustre display and will need to show more grit and discipline if they are to beat Andorra this afternoon.
The first away game of the season will be played in freezing temperatures, which will add to the woes of the sun-bathed Moufflons.
Andorra, situated in the Pyrenees, while small in area, draws on Catalonian players from teams that compete in the Spanish and French divisions and are renowned for their robust approach to the game of rugby.
This was apparent when the Andorrans visited our shores last year. Following the 30-10 victory, Laurence Vassiliades, president of the Cyprus Rugby Federation, expressed his surprise at the physicality of the Andorrans.
“If this is the level we can expect in this division, we need to beef up,” he said.
Given the losses against Latvia and Lithuania he was more than accurate; Cyprus were not only outplayed they were outweighed, overwhelmed, and generally bossed and bullied.
However, with the return of the ‘little general’, Paul Shanks as coach, Cyprus may reflect on their glory days as holders of the world record for consecutive winning international games (24 )- and once more discover their winning ways, but without commitment to the basics and more discipline than of late – Cyprus concede too many penalties – they will struggle.
All those that attended the last game against Andorra in Paphos will recall the try of the season by Jack Antoniou – now sadly recovering from surgery and unavailable -that swung the game in favour of the Moufflons.
This was the first match under new captain, Marco Mladenovic, a home-grown player who proved his ability to rally the men when they recovered from a three-point deficit at half-time to bring about the victory.
Another aspect of that game was the bad-tempered nature of the opposition and their poor form in criticising the officials – the rumour that Catalan referees wear body armour is probably a myth.
If Cyprus lose today they will drop to the bottom of their European Nations Cup division with Hungary on equal points.