Lebanon national rugby league team
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.
|Nickname||Les Cèdres (The Cedars)|
|Governing body||Lebanese Rugby League Federation|
|Head coach||Rick Stone|
|Most caps||Christopher Salem 19|
|Top try-scorer||Christopher Salem 15|
|Top point-scorer||Hazem El Masri (136 points)|
|Home stadium||International Olympic 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 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.
The Cedars had a successful World Cup 2017 campaign, qualifying by beating South Africa, and then getting through the tournament "group of death" first stage with England, France and Australia, by beating France in their first game. In the knock out stage a very close loss to Tonga meant no further progress, but guaranteed entry into the next World Cup due to be held in the UK in 2021
2000 World CupEdit
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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 defeated 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 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.
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.
|Official Rankings as of December 2018|
|10||Papua New Guinea||15.78|
|*Change from July 2018|
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 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 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.
2017 World CupEdit
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.
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.
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. The Cedars were coached by Australian legendary player Brad Fittler
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 faced Tonga. With a score of 22-24, Lebanon lost by just two points in the quarter-final. Lebanon's progression to the knock-out stages of the tournament has also qualified them for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
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 65% 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 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 have played 20 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.
World Cup RecordEdit
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|
|1954||Did not enter|
|2000||Group stage||14th out of 16||3||0||1||0|
|2008||Did not qualify|
The most cap for Lebanon is Robin Hachache with 21 caps. Robin Hachache is a local domestic player in the Lebanese Rugby League Championship.
- 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.
- "Fiji vs Lebanon". NRL.com. 22 June 2019.