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Lebanon

Lebanon RL
Local Name: Al Arz
Team Name: Lebanon Cedars
Nicknames: The Cedars
Colours: Red, Green and White
Inaugurated: 1997
First WC Appearance: 2000
No. Of RLWC Titles: 0
Governing Body: Lebanese Rugby League Federation
Region: Europe

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Lebanon Rugby League

The Lebanon national rugby league team have participated in international competitions since 1998.

Formed in Australia by Lebanese Australians and featuring a majority of heritage players, the relative success of the team helped develop the game in Lebanon itself.

There is a domestic competition in Lebanon, called the Lebanon Championship and it is from here that the national team get their domestic players from with a number of heritage players adding extra quality.

Lebanon qualified for the 2000 World Cup but failed to get past the group stage. They have also qualified for the 2017 World Cup.

The Lebanon national rugby league team have enjoyed plenty of success having won the Mediterranean Cup including 3 wins over France and 1 over Italy.

When you think of Lebanon and Rugby League one name instantly comes to mind and that is Hazem El Masri, who is not only the record holder for both caps and points for Lebanon but also one of the biggest scorers in the history of Rugby League and the record NRL points scorer.

The Lebanese Rugby League team are nicknamed Al Arz The Cedars) after the Cedar tree that also features on the national flag of Lebanon.

Lebanese National Rugby League Team

The Cedars are a country that can call upon a well-established domestic competition for players as well as a number of high quality heritage stars but unfortunately due to the instability of Lebanon and the region, they just cannot develop and build stability on the international stage.

Despite that, they are a country that are capable of pulling of big wins and competing with the best whenever they get to take to the international arena.

Colours and Kit

The colours of the Lebanese national side mirror those of the national flag of Lebanon with the kit been predominantly green with white and red touches.
Although the kit does change, normally from one major tournament to the next.

Honours

Although the country have yet to pick up a major title or trophies, they have enjoyed some success on more 2nd tier tournaments including winning the 2002 Mediterranean Cup when they defeated France by 33-6 in a match played in front of a bumper crowd of 16,713 in the Lebanese capital city of Tripoli.

They also won the 2003 edition by once again defeating France in the final and they made it a hat trick of wins and a hattrick of defeating France in the final of the 2004 edition. The match was probably best notable for the performance of a young Thomas Bosc who showed the quality he would later go on to show for much of the next decade for France.

Notable Players

There have been a number of heritage players to have played for Lebanon who have gone onto become stars of the game or to represent top countries with the likes of Mitchell Moses and Robbie Farah but there is only one name that come to mind when fans think of a Lebanese rugby star and that is the mercurial Hazem El Masri.

Born in the Lebanese capital city of Tripoli, El Masri is regarded as one of the greatest ever goalkickers in the NRL after amassing an incredible 2,418 points and he also score lots of points for the Cedars.

He would play for his country on 8 occasions, between 1999-2003, scoring 136 consisting of 8 tries and 44 goals, and that really helped to put them on the map and to get the sport going in Lebanon.

History

A team representing the country were first established in Australia and featured only Lebanese-Australians but since 2002, the team have been administrated by the Lebanese Rugby League Federation and perhaps most importantly, it has helped to grow focus on the sport in the country and there is now a domestic competition in the country that helps to feed players into the national set up.

The first competition that the country entered was the 1997 Rugby League World Sevens, before they headed over the Japan in 1998 when they defeated their hosts by 28-52.

The rapid growth of the country was topped off in 2000, when after coming through the Mediterranean pool of qualification, the country reached their first ever Rugby League World Cup proper.

In their very first game of qualification, they defeated Italy, followed by a massive win over Morocco by 104-0 when El Masri scored 48 points on his own.

In the World Cup itself, the Cedars lost heavily to New Zealand but lost narrowly to Wales before picking up a draw against the Cook Islands.

That was followed by the 3 wins in the Mediterranean Cup mentioned above but with the problems at home increasing, the Cedars struggled for matches and that saw their performances dip when they did take to the field.

It was perhaps no surprise therefore when they failed to qualify for either the 2008 or 2013 competitions but they not only qualified for the 2017 edition but they turned out to be the surprise package of the tournament as they made it through to the quarter-final stage.

Despite losing to Tonga in that match, by reaching the last 8, Lebanon automatically qualified for the 2021 World Cup.

Unfortunately, problems away from the field continues to hit the team and with some of it of their own doing and some from other sources and you have the perfect recipe for a country struggling to live up to expectations.

Hopefully, things can settle down for the Cedars and they can become a force for the game in the Middle East and help to establish the sport even more in the region.

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