The Malta Knights have moved up five places to 14th spot in December’s latest update of the International Rugby League world rankings.
Malta won four of its five matches in 2023, following a spectacular preparation domestically via the summer’s MRL Championship where the Red Knights proved victorious.
On the international stage, Malta’s only loss was when they went down 38-12 to World Cup nation Italy in Sydney, but the year will be most remembered for a crushing 78-0 defeat of Bulgaria at Marsa in September one week after their 34-10 win over Montenegro in Tivat.
The Malta Rugby League (MRL) is currently in talks with a host of nations regarding the 2024 calendar of events where the Knights wish to host a top-10 nation.
Ukraine, who defeated Malta at Marsa in a World Cup qualifier in 2018, were among the biggest climbers in the December rankings, moving from 28th to 20th, while Australia has held onto the top spot in the rankings ahead of New Zealand, England, Samoa and Tonga who round out the top five.
The USA, who will host two round one fixtures of Australia’s NRL competition in Las Vegas in March 2024, are ranked 33rd.
International Rugby League (IRL) chair Troy Grant said the rankings reflected the volume of internationals activity in 2023, with 64 sanctioned international matches being an unprecedented number outside a World Cup year.
“The on-field activity is what it is all about, ultimately and I have every confidence that the on-field content will only continue to grow, as will the competitiveness and status of international rugby league,” Grant said.
In 2023, Malta enjoyed one of its most successful seasons of the MRL Championship with improved participation numbers leading to a three-team competition between the Blue, Black and Red Knights playing regular Friday night rugby league at Marsa Rugby Ground throughout the summer.
While Tonga are the biggest movers in the 2023 women’s rankings, the Malta Dames national rugby league team is ranked 14th out of 28 nations in the women’s international rankings.
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