On 9 June Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced a 200 million Euro Sports and Leisure Village redevelopment on the island of Malta, which could revolutionise the country's rugby scene.
Malta Rugby Football Union President Martin Galea was present for the government's launch of the "White Rocks Sports and Leisure Village", which will include a 6,000-seater Malta Rugby National Stadium.
"It's just a question of pinching ourselves and saying 'can this really be true?'," Galea told Total Rugby Radio.
"At one stage we were looking for some land to build on but that would have cost a fortune, and this is really handing the whole lot to us on a plate, in fact the main stadium will be called 'National Rugby Stadium'."
The village will incorporate various state-of-the-art facilities to accommodate the increasing demand of national sports organisations as well as a family leisure park, with landscaped and pedestrian areas.
The whole project is due to be completed within the next five years but the stadium could be ready for use in 2013.
"The local minister has confirmed that we will be able to use this stadium for all our events - our local leagues, the international events, ladies, training, everything - so two pitches dedicated for the rugby, and in fact the sport is growing so fast here that the government has promised us a third pitch," added Galea, who is also excited that the developments could take the nation's European Nations Cup matches to a new level.
"We already get fairly good numbers - for the internationals we play against Sweden, Latvia or Croatia we get 3,000 to 4,000 fans into the stadium - so we're quite confident that we can fill this (6,000-seater) stadium with fans.
"The atmosphere at internationals is really good and people here take it as a day out, they bring the kids and it's all going well in that respect."
IRB offers advice and support
The IRB has made it clear that it can assist with expert advice in the rugby ground project, if required.
"They've told me about the sports complex in St
Andrew's. Now, we expect this project to be completed in time
for the MRFU to have its own home ground," said the
board's Head of External and Member Relations, David Carrigy,
in Malta for the 68th Annual Congress of FIRA-AER.
"The MRFU has come a long way and we must see that rugby continues to flourish. The Maltese have done remarkably well in the last few years. Despite having limited resources, they still managed to achieve outstanding results at home and abroad.
"Apart from the national team, they're doing a tremendous job at grassroot levels and now the Maltese have a solid base of young players who are enjoying their rugby.
"The IRB no longer provides grants for the construction of
new stadiums. However, we can assist in a different way.
"I'm meeting some top people during my stay here. If our advice is needed, the IRB will be willing to send expert personnel to make sure the new stadium will be up to international standard."
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