By Phil Caplan, Date: 27/7/12
England Community Lions Under-18s, the first English representative squad to visit Lebanon in any major team sport, has been getting accustomed to the high temperatures and humidity ahead of the first of their two-match series with Liban Espoir – Lebanonâ€™s Under-20s – on Saturday.
â€œThe team has been adjusting well to the weather, which hit 38 degrees on Thursday and will be around 36 on game day,â€ said Lions tour manager Andy Harland. â€œAll the squad have been enjoying the sights and sounds of Lebanon. Theyâ€™re looking forward to what Iâ€™m sure will be a good game but the main aspect is that it has already been a fantastic cultural experience, and weâ€™ve yet to enjoy playing rugby league in this country.â€
The squad touched down on Tuesday and has set up camp in Hamra, in the heart of West Beirut. Their training base has been the state-of-the-art Hostler Centre on the shores of the Mediterranean and in the middle of the sprawling AUB campus.
Espoirs coach Robin Hachache has been doing his utmost to prepare his side, both physically and mentally, to face a vastly more experienced outfit. â€œWeâ€™ve been concentrating on communication, first and foremost, defending in numbers and controlling the ruck and are aiming to complete a high percentage of our sets of six. To make sure we achieve success in all these areas, discipline is the key,â€œ he noted.
The Community Lion cubs racked up a comprehensive series win against South Africa last year and LRLF official Remond Safi is under no illusions as to the task that awaits the Espoirs.
â€œIt has been great to see the English enjoying the cultural experience â€“ theyâ€™ve certainly been attracting attention walking around Beirut,â€ he said. â€œOn the pitch it will be a different story; it will be a good lesson for us and an indication as to what level we are at now.â€