By Phil Caplan, Date: 1/10/12
With around 400 days until the start of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Cook Islands â€“ who face Wales, USA and Tonga in Group D â€“ will take on Lebanon at the Crest Stadium, Bankstown, Australia, next Sunday, 7th October, in a warm up Test.
The clash will mark the end of a sensational world tour for the Cedars â€“ who narrowly missed out on WC qualification to Italy â€“ having played a match on every continent this year, a unique achievement in the sportâ€™s history.
They have already travelled to the Americas (facing Canada in August), Africa (Liban Espoir, the Under-20s, toured Morocco in July), Europe (Lebanon Under-18s played in Belgradeâ€™s August Youth Festival), and Asia (Lebanonâ€™s Under-16s, Under-18s and Under-20s have all played home series this year).
Lebanon come up against the 15th-ranked, UK-bound Cooks Islands for only the second time, their first meeting being in Wales during the 2000 World Cup, a thrilling clash that ended in a 22-all draw.
Cedars coach David Bayssari believes his charges have benefitted from undertaking such an extensive programme. â€œItâ€™s great to see new faces coming through the ranks and filling in the spots of seniors who have stepped down,â€ he said. â€œWith our new elite program and technical department functioning we hope to begin our march to the 2017 World Cup with this game, and build from itâ€.
Cook Islands coach David Fairleigh, who starred in Super League with St Helens, is keen to see his elite players in action in what is a rare opportunity to assemble the side: â€œThis game is good for our development leading into next yearâ€™s World Cup,â€ said the Newcastle assistant coach. â€œSince 2009 we have seen the Cook Islands team grow from mainly Toyota Cup and NSW Cup players into NRL players. As the profile of Polynesian players grows in the NRL it’s important for the game that the Cook Islands maintain a profile on the international stage.â€
LRLF COO Remond Safi noted, â€œIt is a great moment for Lebanese rugby league, with the Under-16s Harmony Cup the first event in which the LRLF is officially entering a team in Australia on the Saturday. I look forward to seeing all the activities that are unfolding out in Sydney with a link created back to the homeland.â€
Sundayâ€™s game will be preceded by Liban Espoir v Cook Islands U20.
LEBANON 27-MAN SQUAD
Joe Constiani (Blactown City); Reece Robinson (Canberra), Daniel Bou Sleiman, Anthony Semarani, Steve Azzi, Ray Moujalli (Canterbury Bulldogs); Abrahim Al Zakhem, Toni Sassine (Hurstville United) ; Adham El Zabedieh, Anthony Farah, Eddy El Zabedieh (Mounties); Elias Sukkur (North Sydney); Ahmed Ellaz (Newtown Jets); Jason Wehbe (Parramatta Eels), Josh Mansour, Travis Robinson (Penrith Panthers), Danny Barakat , Ben Elis, Casey Elis, (Cabramatta), Nadim Couri, Chris Salem (St Johnâ€™s Eagles); Mohamed Merheb (Tripoli RLFC), Ahmed Hijazi, Cliff Nye, Jarroud Azar, James Boustani (Wentworthville), Andrew Kazzi (West Tigers), Chris Salem (St John)
COOK ISLANDS 18-MAN SQUAD
Aaron Nootai (Auckland Vulcans), Adam Tangata (Canberra), Drury Low, Tupou Sopoaga (Canterbury Bulldogs), Tyrone Viiga (Cronulla), Jeremiah Nia, Dominique Peyroux, Japeth Vaoa (Gold Coast Titans), Zeb Taia, Zane Tetevano (Newcastle Knights), Nathaniel Peteru (NZ Warriors), Neccrom Areaiti (North Sydney Bears), Geoff Daniela (Penrith Panthers), Monikura Tikinau (Redcliff Dolphins), Lulia Lulia (Shell Harbour), Tinirau Arona, Chris Taripo (Sydney Roosters), Isaac John (Wakefield)
LEBANON U16 TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Ali Ali, Victor Barakat, Jame Elias, Jason el Jalkh, Edgar Hannah, Habib Jourieh, Bernard Kariouz Omar Makouk, Nasser Merhi, George Mouwad, Michael Sterling (Bankstown Bulls), Jet Jarvis (Cronulla Carigbah), Eyad Hijiad (Dragons), Adham Soultan, Mohamed Soultan (ESA Eagle Vale St Andrews), Brandon Boumelhem, Anthony El Helou (Greystones Devils), Abdullah Issa, Nathan Farah (Kingsgrove Colts), Ibrahim Elbash, Ali Ellaz, Kassem Masri (Greenacre Tigers), Khoda Mitmari (Regents Park Pumas), Ali Redah Saleh (Revesby Heights Rhinos), George Azzi (Riverwood Legion), Elie Adouni, Joshua Bakhos (St Johns Eagles), Dylan Makdessi (Parramatta City Titians), Mason Dovelni