International rugby returns to Israel
The national team will host Norway
in a European Nations Cup Division 3C match at Hadar Yosef in Tel Aviv. Kickoff is at 5 p.m.
Israel is fighting for the top spot in its four-team group, which would mean promotion to 3B.
The blue-and-white are 1-1 after a 19-3 loss to group leader Luxembourg
(2-0) in October and more recently a 37-7 victory over Azerbaijan
(0-2) in Baku. Norway (1-0) is looking for its second win in as many matches after defeating the Azerbaijanis 43-3 in Oslo. Also competing in the group is Bosnia-Herzegovina
"Norway are a good team but we can win if we play to our potential and stick to our game plan," Israel coach Jeremy Schauder told The Jerusalem Post
. "At times against Azerbaijan we didn't stick to the game plan and it was a bit chaotic. Against Norway, we will have to work hard, as well as retaining and controlling the ball."
The national rugby association received a morale boost following a successful Maccabiah tournament, and a number of players decided to stay in Israel.
"Sam Dayani, who is a hooker, and prop Mark Frankfurt
both played for Great Britain
during the [Maccabiah] and both are now playing for us," noted Schauder.
The two forwards were important acquisitions for the Israelis in a game where the strength of the forward pack is critical.
With the new additions and the decision by some national team players to leave the squad following the Maccabiah, the team has had to regroup.
"The Maccabiah gave the guys a great feeling and made them realize they are better then what they think they are," the coach said. "We did however lose some players after the [Maccabiah], so instead of consolidating we sort of had to start over and rebuild but we are confident of where we are at."
Norway poses a threat to Israel as it consists mostly of ex-pat South Africans
and English, has a pair of very quick wingers, an excellent full back and a penetrating scrum half.
The Israeli players will try to take advantage of their familiarity with the Hadar Yosef field, which has hosted sevens and domestic finals.
The national squad will host Bosnia-Herzegovina for its fourth and final group match in April.
In the meantime, the players will return to their local clubs, which have just begun their season.