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Parramatta Eels? Michael Vella and Sydney City Roosters? Shane Shackleton will lead Malta for the first time in two rugby league internationals later this year.
Ranked inside the top five in international rugby league rankings, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) national residents team will face Malta in Port Moresby following the Maltese? match against Italy A one week earlier in Sydney.
Malta?s classy back line that includes a host of NRL Premier League talent will be boosted by the two NRL forwards who will make their international debuts for the emerging nation, ranked 15th in Europe by the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF).
Maltese Rugby League Association chairman Mark Sultana says the availability of the two forwards for the respective matches will be a welcome advantage against the Italians who beat Greece 58-14 in their last international and against PNG Residents who will be an dictating force in Port Moresby.
?We?ve received written confirmation from the Roosters that Shane is making himself available to play in both matches. So I dare say he is a definite to play.? Sultana says.
?He?s (Shackleton) absolutely busting to play for Malta?
?Mick?s (Vella) a true gentlemen in every sense of the term and loves being involved with the Malta Knights. I?m looking forward to him pulling on the red and white jersey and not the trainer?s blue shirt?
Sydney City Roosters? Shackleton was a late omission from Malta?s line up to take on Greece and England Lionhearts last October as Roosters coach Ricky Stuart trained the Roosters forward for the weeks following the NRL?s season end.
Shackleton has since made his starting debut for the Roosters and retained his spot in the forwards before suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago.
Matt Gafa, playing at Harlequins RL (formerly London Broncos) in the English Super League has also indicated his availability to play in the two post-season internationals. Gafa will add to a sizzling Maltese back line.
Ex Cronulla Sharks fullback Ben Sammut will skipper Malta in the two internationals.