Rugby league in Lebanon
|Rugby league in Lebanon|
|Governing body||Lebanese Rugby League Federation|
The seeds of rugby league in Lebanon lie in Australia. A group of Australian-born rugby league players with Lebanese heritage, mostly from inner-city Sydney formed a side with a view to entering the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. They were accepted into the qualifying tournament on the agreement that they would aim to develop rugby league within the country they represent. They subsequently went on to win the qualifying competition, earning their place by beating Italy and Morocco of the Mediterranean group before travelling to Florida to defeat the USA, winners of the Pacific group.
In 2002 a domestic league was set up in Lebanon, initially with four university-based teams. Players from the domestic competition now feature in the national side, and a side composed entirely from Lebanese domestic players, known as Lebanon Espoirs has been formed.
In 2011, Lebanon nearly qualified for 2013 Rugby League World Cup but lost to Italy who became the 14th and final nation to qualify for event.
In 2011, the government of Lebanon promised to increase its support and funding for rugby league.
Governing body and competitions
Lebanon Rugby League Championship
There are eight teams that play in the Bank of Beirut Lebanon Championship domestic league.
|Tripoli City||Tripoli||Tripoli Rugby League Football Club|
|Redbacks||Beirut||Redbacks Rugby League Football Club|
|Wolves||Rabieh||Wolves Rugby League Football Club|
|Jounieh Al-Galacticos||Jounieh||Jounieh Al-Galacticos Rugby League Football Club|
|LAU Immortals||Beirut||Lebanese American University Immortals Rugby League Football Club|
|USJ Saints||Beirut||Université Saint-Joseph Saints Rugby League Football Club|
|Balamand Razorbacks||Koura||Balamand Razorbacks Rugby League Football Club|
|AUST Lions||Beirut||American University of Science and Technology Lions Rugby League Football Club|
|L.I.U Eagles||Tripoli||Lebanese International University Eagles Rugby League Football Club|
Media representation of rugby league has grown dramatically in the past few years with the domestic competition now covered by all ten marquee Lebanese newspapers, two prominent radio stations and the country’s major television stations.
The National Team
The full Lebanon side, nicknamed the Cedars, remains mostly composed of players of Lebanese ancestry from Australia. The Lebanon Espoirs team, made up of younger players from the domestic competition, has played a number of fixtures - this side has competed annually in the Rugby League Mediterranean Cup, which is hosted in Lebanon. Many of the Espoirs players have gone into represent Lebanon in full international matches. The Cedars have been largely successful in international competition - they were unbeaten in 12 tests between 2000 and 2007, a record which included two draws against Ireland. This winning streak ended with a 38-16 loss to Samoa in the final game of their 2008 Rugby League World Cup qualification campaign.
Since the arrival of a five-team domestic league in Lebanon, which was set up in 2003, a second team has formed made up of players from that league under Head Coach Remond Safi. They are known as the Liban Espoir and regularly tour other countries. In 2003 they toured Morocco, and then in 2005 they toured England and Wales, playing numerous matches against the England Lionhearts, Welsh Presidents XIII and Rugby League Conference teams. In 2006 they recorded their first victory on tour in Cyprus against a British combined services team. In 2007 they beat the main Serbian national team 16-14 and went on to defeat a Serbia Development XIII 50-0. In 2008 they played the United Arab Emirates of the Emirates Rugby League, the first game ever to be played by the nation. The match was played in Bhamdoun with the Liban Espoir eventually winning 48-18. In 2009, Liban Espoir played the UAE Falcons again, this time in a three-game series. The first game, played in Dubai at The Sevens ended early with the UAE Falcons leading 16-6 because of a mass brawl. The remaining two games were split between The Sevens and Bhamdoun. In the second game held at The Sevens, The Espoirs fell to a 34-10 defeat at the hands of the UAE Falcons and are awaiting the third and final match of 2009 that will be held in Lebanon late August.
Since Lebanon's international debut in 1999 they have qualified for the 1999 World Cup in Australia where the Men's Over 30s won silver, Mixed Open won bronze and Men's Open came 5th. In the 2001 Youth World Cup in New Zealand the Lebanese Men's Under 18s team finished 4th and Men's Under 20s came 6th. In the 2005 Youth World Cup in Australia the Men's Under 20s defeated South Africa to win the bronze medal. In the 2007 World Cup in South Africa the Men's Opens team defeated Japan to win the bronze medal. Lebanon are currently ranked third in the world behind Australia and New Zealand.