Lebanon national rugby league team
The Lebanon national rugby league team (Arabic: المنتخب اللبناني للرجبي ليغ) represents Lebanon in rugby league football. Nicknamed "the Cedars" after the Lebanese cedar tree, the team was formed by Lebanese Australians in 1997 and have been administered by the Lebanese Rugby League Federation since 2002.
|Governing body||Lebanese Rugby League Federation|
|Head coach||Michael Cheika|
|Most caps||Christopher Salem (19)|
|Top try-scorer||Christopher Salem (15)|
|Top point-scorer||Hazem El Masri (196)|
|Home stadium||International Olympic Stadium|
Beirut Municipal Stadium
| Japan 28 – 52 Lebanon |
(Tokyo, Japan; 1998)
| Morocco 0 – 104 Lebanon |
(Carcassonne, France; 1999)
| Russia 80 – 0 Lebanon |
(Moscow, Russia; 28 September 2008)
|Appearances||2 (first time in 2000)|
|Best result||Quarter-finals, 2017|
The Cedars have competed at two Rugby League World Cups, in 2000 and 2017, achieving their best result as quarter-finalists at the latter. The team's World Cup history has been defined by close losses and unfavourable draws. They were eliminated in 2000 following a 24–22 loss to Wales and a 22–22 draw with the Cook Islands, and knocked-out in 2017 by a 24–22 loss to a much stronger Tongan team. Lebanon's two unsuccessful qualifying attempts for the 2008 and 2013 tournaments were both decided by points difference after drawing with Ireland in 2006 and again in 2007, and Italy in 2011.
2000 World CupEdit
Lebanon was placed in the Mediterranean Pool for qualification to the 2000 World Cup. In their first game they defeated Italy 36–16, and then defeated Morocco 104–0. In this match, captain Hazem El Masri scored a total of 48 points, the highest number 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 62–8 and secured the final place in the World Cup. Following the match the team were warned about their conduct after a car-park fight which resulted in American winger Tony Fabri being taken to 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 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.
|Official Men's Rankings as of November 2019|
|6||4||Papua New Guinea|
|*Change from July 2019|
In 2002, Lebanon beat France 36–6 in front of 16,713 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.
2008 World Cup qualifyingEdit
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 Maroon's 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 US 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 QualifyingEdit
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.
Return to the World Cup, player disputes (2015–19)Edit
The Middle East-Africa region was allocated one slot for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The qualifying tournament was held in October 2015 in Pretoria as a two-match series between Lebanon and South Africa. They were initially due to play a one-off qualifier in Dubai, however this was changed following the controversial arrest of Sol Mokdad at the behest of rugby union administrators in the United Arab Emirates. Travis Robinson scored hat-tricks in both matches as Lebanon won comfortably with an aggregated score of 90–28.
In January 2017, Ivan Cleary was announced as Lebanon's head coach, though he stood down in April after taking the head coach role at the Wests Tigers. Brad Fittler was announced in his place in June. Captained by Robbie Farah, Lebanon competed in Group A against France, England, and tournament favourites Australia. They defeated France 29–18 in a close match, lost 29–10 to England, and held on for a commendable 34–0 loss to Australia, notably keeping the score to 10–0 until the 50th minute and 22–0 until the 76th minute. In the quarter-final, Lebanon came close to upsetting Tonga, remaining within one try for much of the match, but ultimately lost 24–22. Lebanon's progression to the quarter-finals earned them automatic qualification for the next World Cup in 2021.
Following the World Cup, Lebanon was expected to play Papua New Guinea on 23 June 2018, however reports of player boycotts jeopardised the fixture before it had been announced. In March 2018, Chris Saab and Michael Hedwan (acting as player representatives) advised the LRLF that the World Cup squad would not make themselves available for the Cedars until a new board was elected, claiming the team was underfunded and unsupported by the administration during the tournament. Fittler, who had since been appointed as coach of the New South Wales State of Origin team, supported the boycott. The LRLF refuted all claims of economic mismanagement in a statement. Michael Maguire reportedly walked away from negotiations to coach the team as a result. A second statement by the LRLF denied the existence of a squad-wide boycott, and disputed Saab and Hedwan's claim that they acted on behalf of the entire squad. Lebanon withdrew from the fixture in May 2018, citing a loss of sponsorship caused by the negative publicity.
In 2019, Lebanon was scheduled to face Fiji on 22 June, with Rick Stone as head coach. One week before the match, the playing squad announced they would be covering the LRLF's emblem over concerns about the state of the domestic competition in Lebanon, which could impact the teams' eligibility to compete in the next World Cup. The LRLF announced that any player concealing the emblem would be suspended and subject to a misconduct hearing, noting that it may be a criminal offence. Peace talks ensured no players concealed the emblem during the match, in which Lebanon were outclassed by Fiji 58–14, however, the LRLF subsequently announced misconduct charges for 16 players.[a]
2021 World CupEdit
Lebanon has been participating in International fixtures since 1998 and has played 51 games since then to the end of the 2017 World Cup group stage, at an average of three 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 63.46% win record, holding impressive records against a number of more experienced teams such as France whom they hold an 80% win record from 5 games and a 75% win record against Italy whom they have played 8 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 22 years of Lebanon's existence, Lebanon has played 21 different countries, playing Italy the most with 8 matches between the two sides.
The following table underneath shows Lebanon's all-time rugby league results record up to date as of 24 December 2020. They have been participating in International fixtures since 1998.
|Country||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Win %||For||Against||Pts difference|
†Includes matches played against the France Espoirs side.
World Cup RecordEdit
|World Cup Record|
|1954||Did not enter|
|2008||Did not qualify|
- Those players were Adam Doueihi, Toufic El Hage, Michel El Tom, Ahmad Ellaz, Robbie Farah, Nick Kassis, Anthony Layoun, Michael Lichaa, Bilal Maarbani, Tim Mannah, Josh Mansour, Abbas Miski, Mitchell Moses, James Roumanos, Chris Saab, and Georges Yazbek. Ali Saad's erroneous inclusion was later retracted in an apology.
- Polychronis, Jacob (20 November 2020). "Cheika back in rugby league with 'unbelievable' head coaching role". Fox Sports. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- Bazeley, Marc (1 January 2021). "The ties that bind: Lebanon, rugby league and links to Australia". Sky Sports. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- 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.
- "Samoa beats Lebanon to be last team in league world cup". AAP. 14 November 2007.
- "Venue changed for Middle East-Africa RLWC qualifier". Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- Brady, Jack (14 November 2015). "Lebanon's successes built on proud heritage". NRL.com. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- "Ivan Cleary appointed Lebanon head coach". NRL.com. 21 January 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- "Ivan Cleary stands down from Lebanon national coaching role". RLEF. 25 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- "Brad Fittler announced as Lebanon coach". NRL.com. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- "Lebanon announce World Cup squad". NRL.com. 12 October 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- "Mitchell Moses guides Lebanon to historic victory". Fox Sports. 29 October 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- Jurejko, Jonathan (4 November 2017). "Rugby League World Cup: England 29-10 Lebanon". BBC. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- Proszenko, Adrian (11 November 2017). "Australia brush aside Lebanon to remain undefeated". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
- Smith, Tony (14 November 2017). "Luke Burt backs Lebanon's 'toughness' against Tonga in Rugby League World Cup quarterfinal". Stuff. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- Glover, Ben (18 November 2017). "Lebanon give Tonga huge fright in sensational quarter final as Mate Ma'a advance". Fox Sports. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- Proszenko, Adrian (4 April 2018). "Michael Maguire bypasses Lebanon coaching job following Test boycott". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- Proszenko, Adrian (24 March 2018). "Lebanon players to boycott internationals over World Cup management". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- "LRLF Federation press release". lebanonrl.com. 24 March 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- "LRLF statement following internal investigation into story of player boycott". lebanonrl.com. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- "LRLF withdraw from mid-season Test". lebanonrl.com. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- "Lebanon appoint Rick Stone as Head Coach". rlwc2021.com. 26 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- Carayannis, Michael (15 June 2019). "Lebanon players will take strike action". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- Rayson, Zac (19 June 2019). "Lebanon rugby league protest: Players threatened with prosecution". Fox Sports. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- "Lebanon coach Stone eyeing familiar foe". SBS. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- Newton, Alicia (22 June 2019). "Sivo and Suli all class as Fijians outclass Cedars". NRL.com. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
- "Lebanese Rugby League Federation suspends 17 players". NRL.com. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
- Smale, Simon (1 July 2019). "Lebanon Rugby League Federation bans 17 national team players over Pacific Test protest". ABC. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
- "LRLF apology". lebanonrl.com. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
- "Head to Head". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
- "Head to Head". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 24 December 2020.