Lebanon national rugby league team

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Lebanon
Badge of Lebanon team
Team information
Nickname Les Cèdres (The Cedars)
Governing body Lebanese Rugby League Federation
Region Europe
Head coach Brad Fittler
Captain Robbie Farah
Most caps Christopher Salem 19
Top try-scorer Christopher Salem 15
Top point-scorer Hazem El Masri (136 points)
Home stadium International Olympic Stadium
RLIF ranking 9th
Uniforms
First colours
Team results
First international
 Japan 28 – 52 Lebanon 
(Tokyo, Japan; 1998)
Biggest win
 Morocco 0 – 104 Lebanon 
(Carcassonne, France; 1999)
Biggest defeat
 Russia 80 – 0 Lebanon 
(Moscow, Russia; 28 September 2008)
World Cup
Appearances 2 (first time in 2000)
Best result Quarter-finals, 2017

The Lebanon national rugby league team (Arabic: المنتخب اللبناني للرجبي ليغ) is the representative side of Lebanon in rugby league football. It is the top tier team of the Lebanese Rugby League Federation. 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. 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 21st 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. Brad Fittler, Australian coach and former professional player, occupies the position of head coach.

History[edit]

2000 World Cup[edit]

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.[1]

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 Charles Baynie 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.

Mediterranean Cup[edit]

In 2002, Lebanon beat France 36–6 in front of 16,713 spectators at Tripoli to clinch the Mediterranean Cup for a second time.[2] 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 2017
Rank Change Team Points
1 Same position  Australia
2  New Zealand
3  England
4 Rise  Tonga
5  Fiji
6 Fall  Samoa
7  Scotland
8  France
9 Rise  Lebanon
10  Papua New Guinea
11 Fall  Ireland
12  Wales
13  Italy
14  United States
15  Jamaica
16  Serbia
17  Canada
18  Malta
19 Same position  Russia
20  Belgium
21  Spain
22  Norway
23  Greece
24 Rise  Philippines
25 Same position  Ukraine
26  Czech Republic
27  Netherlands
28  Germany
29  Hungary
30 Fall  Cook Islands
31  Sweden
32 Rise  Chile
33 Fall  Niue
34  Denmark
35  South Africa
36  Vanuatu
37 Rise  El Salvador
38 Fall  Thailand
39 New entry  Argentina
40  Colombia
41  Japan
42 Fall  Solomon Islands
43 New entry  Brazil
44 Fall  Uruguay
45 New entry  Hong Kong
46 Fall  Bulgaria
47  Latvia
48  Morocco

2008 World Cup qualifying[edit]

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,[3] scoring four tries but converting none of them.

2013 World Cup Qualifying[edit]

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.

2017 World Cup[edit]

Qualifying[edit]

Lebanon were drawn initially in a one-off playoff in Dubai, United Arab Emirates against the African rugby league nation of South Africa, however the match was shifted to a two match play-off in Pretoria, South Africa due to a controversial arrest of Sol Mokdad following a complaint from UAE rugby union officials.[4]

Lebanon comfortably won the play-off fixtures with an aggregate score of 90-28 with Travis Robinson scored 3 tries in each of the games.

Group Stage[edit]

Lebanon were drawn into a tough group with Australia, England and France. Three teams from the group would qualify for the quarter-finals with Lebanon being the favourites to be knocked out. Lebanon's team was mostly made up of Lebanese-Australians who played their club rugby in Australia, the most high profile of these players being captain and NRL star Robbie Farah who had previously played for Australia, and upcoming prospect Mitchell Moses.

They started the tournament with a game against France at Canberra Stadium, Canberra. Travis Robinson, who had scored 6 tries in the qualifying play-off series, scored 2 tries in the game to cause an upset and win 29-18. This win was Lebanon's first at a world cup. Their next game came against England, losing 10-29. Their last group game also saw them lose 34-0 to overwhelming tournament favourites Australia. This performance however was seen as a decent one due to Lebanon's admirable defensive effort and ability to keep Australia's score much lower than was expected.

Lebanon's win against France was enough to send them into the knock-out stages of the competition where they will face Tonga for a place in the semi-finals. Lebanon's progression to the knock-out stages of the tournament has also qualified them for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

Current squad[edit]

The Lebanon national team squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.[5]

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Pts Club
Fullback Daniel Abou-Sleiman (1991-11-18) 18 November 1991 (age 26) 3 8 Unattached
Fullback Anthony Layoun (1997-02-07) 7 February 1997 (age 20) 0 0 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Fullback Ray Sabat (1997-04-04) 4 April 1997 (age 20) 2 4 LebanonRLcolours.png Lycans FC
Wing Bilal Maarbani (1998-02-11) 11 February 1998 (age 19) 1 0 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Wing Abbas Miski (1995-07-25) 25 July 1995 (age 22) 6 40 North Sydney colours.svg North Sydney Bears
Wing Travis Robinson (1987-06-13) 13 June 1987 (age 30) 5 40 Newtown colours.svg Newtown Jets
Centre Danny Barakat (1981-09-17) 17 September 1981 (age 36) 4 20 Western Suburbs colours.svg Wentworthville Magpies
Centre James Elias (1993-12-04) 4 December 1993 (age 24) 2 0 Skolscolours.svg Western Suburbs Rosellas
Five-eighth Adam Doueihi (1998-05-08) 8 May 1998 (age 19) 2 0 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs
Five-eighth Jason Wehbe (1992-08-16) 16 August 1992 (age 25) 0 0 Unattached
Halfback Mitchell Moses (1994-09-16) 16 September 1994 (age 23) 2 0 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Prop Andrew Kazzi (1994-12-11) 11 December 1994 (age 23) 3 4 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers
Prop Mitchell Mamary (1994-01-13) 13 January 1994 (age 23) 4 0 Panthers colours.svg Auburn Warriors
Prop Tim Mannah (1988-02-15) 15 February 1988 (age 29) 3 0 Parramatta colours.svg Parramatta Eels
Prop Ray Moujalli (1984-12-20) 20 December 1984 (age 32) 13 20 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury Bulldogs
Prop Alex Twal (1996-07-03) 3 July 1996 (age 21) 3 0 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers
Hooker Jamie Clark (1987-03-19) 19 March 1987 (age 30) 12 22 Panthers colours.svg Auburn Warriors
Hooker Robbie Farah (Captain) (1984-01-23) 23 January 1984 (age 33) 4 4 South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs
Hooker Michael Lichaa (1993-07-13) 13 July 1993 (age 24) 3 0 Canterbury colours.svg Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Second-row Ahmad Ellaz (1990-05-14) 14 May 1990 (age 27) 7 4 Panthers colours.svg Auburn Warriors
Second-row Chris Saab (1981-12-22) 22 December 1981 (age 35) 12 12 Brisbane colours.svg Guildford Owls
Second-row Jaleel Seve-Derbas (1996-02-11) 11 February 1996 (age 21) 1 0 Wests Tigers colours.svg Wests Tigers
Second-row Elias Sukkar (1991-05-26) 26 May 1991 (age 26) 3 8 Panthers colours.svg Auburn Warriors
Lock Nick Kassis (1988-11-29) 29 November 1988 (age 29) 10 16 Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles

International Results[edit]

Lebanon have been participating in International fixtures since 1998 and have played 50 games since then to the end of the 2017 World Cup group stage, at an average of 3 games per year. Most of Lebanon's games have been played as friendlies or as part of the Mediterranean Cup which has taken place sporadically from 1999 with Lebanon winning all 5 tournaments that have been held.

Lebanon have a 66% win record, holding impressive records against a number of more experienced teams such as France whom they hold a 80% win record from 5 games and a 71% win record against Italy whom they have played 7 times. Lebanon have played the 'big three' teams of Australia, New Zealand and England once each, losing each time, the losses against Australia and England coming in the group stage of the 2017 World Cup.

Over the 19 years of Lebanon's existence, they haved played 19 different countries, playing Italy the most with 7 games, France and Morocco being the second most at 5 games each.

The following table underneath shows Lebanon's all-time rugby league results record: They have been participating in International fixtures since 1998.

International Results
Country Played Won Drawn Lost Win %
Total 50 33 4 13 66%
 Australia 1 0 0 1 0%
 Canada 1 0 0 1 0%
 Cook Islands 3 0 1 2 0%
 England 1 0 0 1 0%
 France 5 4 0 1 80%
 Fiji 2 1 0 1 50%
 Ireland 3 1 2 0 33.3%
 Italy 7 5 1 1 71.4%
 Japan 1 1 0 0 100%
 Malta 4 4 0 0 100%
 Morocco 5 5 0 0 100%
 New Zealand 1 0 0 1 0%
 Niue 1 1 0 0 100%
 Russia 4 3 0 1 75%
 Samoa 1 0 0 1 0%
 Scotland 1 0 0 1 0%
 Serbia 4 4 0 0 100%
 South Africa 2 2 0 0 100%
 United States 1 1 0 0 100%
 Wales 2 1 0 1 50%

World Cup Record[edit]

Lebanon have taken part in two world cups, in 2000 and 2017. In 2000, they were knocked out in the group stages after losing two games and drawing one, a 22-22 result against Cook Islands. Lebanon qualified for the 2017 tournament after beating South Africa in a two match play-off series. Lebanon won their first game in a world cup after beating France 29-18 in the group, a win that was enough to send them into the quarter-finals. Reaching this stage of the competition has also automatically qualified them for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

World Cup Record
Year Round Position Pld Win Draw Loss
France 1954 Did not enter
Australia 1957
England 1960
Australia New Zealand 1968
England 1970
France 1972
United Nations 1975
Australia New Zealand 1977
United Nations 1985-88
United Nations 1989-92
England 1995
United Kingdom Ireland France 2000 Group stage 14th out of 16 3 0 1 0
Australia 2008 Did not qualify
England Wales 2013
Australia New Zealand Papua New Guinea 2017 Quarter-finals 7/14 4 1 3 0
England 2021 Qualified
United States Canada 2025

Records[edit]

The most cap for Lebanon is Christopher Elias Salem with 19 caps. Christopher Elias Salem also holds the record for most tries for Lebanon at 15.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hadfield, Dave (24 October 2000). "Lebanese rugby league team in storm over funny substances". The Independent. London. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Mascord, Steve (4 November 2002). "El Magic helps spread word to the Middle East". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Samoa beats Lebanon to be last team in league world cup". AAP. 14 November 2007. 
  4. ^ "Venue changed for Middle East-Africa RLWC qualifier". Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation. 2015-07-24. Retrieved 2015-09-26. 
  5. ^ "Farah to lead Lebanon as squad announced". rlwc2017.com. 12 October 2017. 
  6. ^ "Rugby League World Cup Official Team Lists". RLWC2017.com. 23 October 2017. 

External links[edit]