Lebanon national rugby league team
|Nickname||Les Cèdres (The Cedars)|
|Governing body||Lebanese Rugby League Federation|
|Head coach||David Bayssari|
|Most caps||Robin Hachache (13)|
|Top try-scorer||Hazem El Masri (9)|
|Top point-scorer||Hazem El Masri (80 points)|
|Home stadium||International Olympic Stadium|
| Japan 28 – 52 Lebanon
(Tokyo, Japan; 1998)
| Morocco 0 – 104 Lebanon
(Perpignan, France; 1999)
| Russia 80 – 0 Lebanon
(Moscow, Russia; 28 September 2008)
|Appearances||1 (first time in 2000)|
|Best result||Group stages, 2000|
The Lebanon national rugby league team is the representative side of Lebanon in rugby league football. They are nicknamed "The Cedars" after the Lebanon Cedar tree, which is also on the Lebanese flag. The team has been participating in international competition since 1998 and has quickly became one of the best teams in the Northern Hemisphere. The team was originally formed in New South Wales, Australia, composed of Lebanese Australians. But their success has helped the game grow in Lebanon and now players are also taken from the newly formed Lebanon Championship as well as the National Rugby League in Australia.
The team played in the 2000 World Cup, having defeated the USA to get there. But it failed in getting out of the group stages, despite a draw against the Cook Islands in Cardiff and a 24–22 defeat against Wales in Llanelli. The Cedars then attempted to qualify for the 2008 World Cup but lost their group to Ireland and finally losing the repechage final to Samoa. In other competitions they have been more successful. They have taken part in the Mediterranean Cup and have won it in every year it has been played. In 2006 they won the Phoenician Cup by beating Malta.
Currently the team are ranked 11th in the world, having dropped out of the top ten after failing to qualify for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. In the more up to date European rankings they are ranked 5th, behind World Cup qualifiers England, France, Ireland and Scotland, but they are ahead of Wales, Russia and Serbia. John Elias occupies the position of head coach.
2000 World Cup
Initially the Lebanese players were all Australian born or raised and came mostly from inner-city Sydney. They started playing full internationals in 1998 and in their first match thrashed Japan in Tokyo. This got them a place in Mediterranean Pool for qualification to the 2000 World Cup. In their first game they defeated Italy 36–16, and then thrashed Morocco 104–0. In this match, captain Hazem El Masri scored a total of 48 points, the highest amount of points ever scored by one player in an international match. To qualify they had to beat the Pacific Rim Pool winners, the USA. They won easily, the final score being 62–8 and so secured the final place in the World Cup. Following the match the team were warned about their conduct after a car-park fight that put American winger Tony Fabri in hospital.
The Cedars were in a pool with favourites New Zealand, Wales and Cook Islands. The team were well beaten against New Zealand in Gloucester, where there were ferocious winds and rain. Head coach John Elias said after the game that his team were simply out of their depth. However Lebanon did much better in the match against Wales. It wasn't until Wales had scored four tries that Lebanon had finally got on the score board with a Michael Coorey try in the 35th minute. In the second half Lebanon performed much better, but two late Hassan Saleh tries left Lebanon losing 24–22. By far the easiest game on paper was the match against the Cook Islands. With just five minutes remaining though, The Cedars found themselves 22–10 down, before Hazem El Masri scored a second try and centre Hassan Saleh scored one too in last minute to seal a 22–22 draw for Lebanon. This point was enough to keep them off bottom place in the group, but they had not done enough to earn a place in the quarter-finals.
In 2002, Lebanon beat France 36–6 in front of 9,713 spectators at Tripoli to clinch the Mediterranean Cup for a second time. In 2003 played host to another Mediterranean Cup with Lebanon beating France again in final, albeit this was a much closer match at 26–18 with Wissam El Masri only fully securing the win in the last minute. In the final Mediterranean Cup in 2004, Lebanon made it three victories in a row. Just like last year's cup, they easily beat Morocco and Serbia to face the French in the final again. France trailed 30–8 at half time but in the second half it was a much tighter affair with Toufiq Nicolas and a third Ahmed Al Masri try finally sealing a 42–14 victory for Lebanon despite a late consolation try for France. It is also worth noting that a young Thomas Bosc featured in that match for France. He would then go on to play in the 2007 Challenge Cup Final.
|Official Rankings as of December 2013|
|7||Papua New Guinea||166.00|
2008 World Cup qualifying
Despite wanting to host another Mediterranean Cup in 2005, Lebanon did not play another international until November 2006. With a place in the 2008 World Cup up for grabs, Lebanon were drawn in a group with Russia and Ireland. In Darren Maroons first match as head coach, Lebanon beat Russia 22–8 in a tight and tense match at the New River Stadium in North London. Ireland however had already thrashed Russia beforehand and so Lebanon needed to beat Ireland in Dublin to go top of the table. Centre Daniel Chiha crossed over the line after 13 minutes, but the conversion was missed. John Koborsi then extended the lead for Lebanon and the team went into half time 0–10 up. However within 6 minutes after half-time, Ireland had scored two tries and they were now in front. A little later Chris Salem then intercepted a ball near his own line and ran the whole length of the pitch to score a spectacular try. This lead didn't last though and in the last minutes of the game Ireland scored a try to end the game 18–18. In 2007 the World Cup qualifying matches continued. In October the team travelled to Moscow and put nine-tries past Russia to win 0–48. This meant that their last match against Ireland was crucial. Because Ireland had a significantly better points difference then Lebanon, The Cedars needed a win to qualify, a draw or a narrow defeat was simply not good enough. At the end of the Russia match, despite the easy victory, Darren Maroon said that the team must make big improvements if they were to beat the Irish. Due to the volatile situation in Lebanon, The Cedars had to play their "home tie" in Dewsbury, England. A George Ndaira try in the first half meant that Lebanon went into half time on the wrong end of a 12–4 scoreline. Chris Salem immediately scored a try after the interval though and Lebanon were back in the game. In the 63rd minute prop Charlie Nohra was sent off, leaving Lebanon with 12 men and a huge upward struggle. Frank Samia scored a converted try near the end of the match and so Lebanon were ahead for the first time in the match. In the last minute the two points were taken away as a high-tackle gave Ireland a penalty which they scored to end the game 16–16. Lebanon had not done enough to secure a place in the World Cup.
But because they had finished, they went into a repechage match with three other teams, Wales, USA and Samoa. They faced Wales first and won that match in Widnes, England. In took a long time for Lebanon too actually take the lead for the first time in the match, but in the second half Lebanon were much stronger than Wales and eventually posted nine tries, including three by Chris Salem, against Wales' five. This victory also meant that Lebanon had extended their unbeaten streak to 13 matches, and in doing so beating Australia's record of 12 unbeaten matches from 1999 to 2001. Samoa had beaten the USA in the other match and so Lebanon and Samoa faced each other in Featherstone, England for the tenth and final place in the 2008 World Cup. Samoa had a lot of the possession during the match and were noticeably physically larger. Samoa went into half time with a 28–8 lead despite a George Ndaira try for Lebanon on the 18th minute and an Adnan Saleh try very near to half-time. Two more tries in the second half were not enough for Lebanon and they lost the match 16–38, scoring four tries but converting none of them.
2013 World Cup Qualifying
Lebanon were drawn against Serbia, Italy and Russia in the qualifying group for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, with the winners of the group progressing to the final tournament. Following comfortable victories over Serbia and Russia, Lebanon set up a winner-takes-all match against Italy in Belgrade on 29 October. The game finished in a draw with the score at 19–19, which unfortunately meant that Italy qualified for the World Cup ahead of Lebanon based on points difference. This is the second time in a row that Lebanon have failed to qualify for the World Cup despite not losing a game in the qualifiers.
Junior Cedars (under 16s)
The LRLC has developed rugby league through the school system which has given them youth of the country and has been able to select their historical team to tour KSA in June, but was unable to travel as visas had not been granted to this date. They will play KSA in Lebanon on 24 October as a curtain raiser of the European Cup, where their senior players (Senior Cedars) will take on Russia. Also the Junior Cedars will tour Qatar, where they will participate in a tri series with Qatar and KSA.
|First team squad||Coaching staff|
- Lebanon announce new coaching setup for World Cup Qualifiers rleague.com, 10 June 2011
- Hadfield, Dave (24 October 2000). "Lebanese rugby league team in storm over funny substances". The Independent (London). Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- Mascord, Steve (4 November 2002). "El Magic helps spread word to the Middle East". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia: Fairfax). Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- RLIF; RLIF Rankings
- "Samoa beats Lebanon to be last team in league world cup". AAP. 14 November 2007.