CHRIS Dudman has expressed his joy at playing international rugby for Malta.

The former Southend High School pupil lined up against Israel, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

And the 24-year-old - who finished playing for Westcliff at the end of last season - loved every second of action.

“It was a fantastic experience to start playing international rugby,” said Dudman, who scored a try on his debut against Israel.

“It’s something I had looked forward to for a long time and I felt I had finally ticked off a lifelong ambition.”

Malta kicked off with a 39-17 win against Israel before drawing 14-14 with Croatia.

A 48-14 defeat to the Czech Republic followed.

And Dudman felt the matches were a huge step up in standard.

“The games were another level up from what I have been involved in before,” said Dudman, who lined up on the wing for Malta.

“The physicality and ball speed were the significant differences between club rugby and international level.

“It took a while for me to get used to the differences.

“But it made the games much more exciting to be involved in.

“Playing against Israel and Croatia were both tough games in our league.

“Thankfully we did just enough against Croatia to make sure we finished top of the league.

“However, when we faced the Czech Republic they proved too strong for us and we struggled to match them physically.

“After the game against the Czech Republic they announced they were turning into a fully professional outfit.

“It was interesting and also exciting to see teams around our standard making that step up.

“But we now look forward to next season where we compete again in Conference One South.

“Hopefully we can push on from our previous season.”

Dudman qualifies to play for Malta through his mother’s side of the family and has now also decided to move to the country.

As a result, his lengthy spell with Westcliff has come to an end.

But Dudman hopes to one day return to the club where he had been playing for the past 10 years.

“I’m now out in Malta full time and will be playing my rugby over here,” said Dudman.

“I can’t thank Westcliff Rugby Club enough for the opportunities it has presented me with.

“I hope one day I’ll be able to get back to support the club and wear the maroon and gold jersey once again.”

Dudman added he was excited by the new challenge.

But he also admitted it had been a tough decision to make.

“It was a tough move to make, leaving many friends behind,” said Dudman.

“But I have always enjoyed the lifestyle in Malta and felt it was good to experience a change for however long it may last.”