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Can Michael Cheika and Mitchell Moses help the Cedars rip up trees?




Lebanon’s rugby league story is an interesting one. From Hazem El-Masri onwards, the migrant community in Western Sydney has churned out a solid production line of superb talent, who have proudly represented the Cedars in international competition going back as far as 2000.

They’ve also got a strong domestic competition – largely inspired by those in Sydney – that has continued to play despite huge setbacks, political and economic struggles and more internal disputes than one cares to mention.

Lebanon were given a place at the 2000 World Cup on the proviso that they work towards developing the sport in country, and they did that: domestic players have played for the country in major internationals. The league is still developing, of course, but the commitment is there.

The question for coach Michael Cheika – fresh off the back of beating Australia in rugby union – will be if they can match Ireland and Jamaica. All three will lose to New Zealand, but the second spot for the knockouts is very much up for grabs.

The standouts, of course, are Mitchell Moses and Adam Douehi, who are genuine NRL superstars. Everyone else will go where they lead. The loss of Alex Twal, who had his season ended by a series of concussions, is huge.

“I can’t wait for it,” said Cheika, who is head coach with Argentina in rugby union and Lebanon in rugby league.

“It’s going to be an experience to be coaching in a World Cup in another spot. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve not really thought a heap about what I’m going to be doing yet, I just need to get through this one.”

Certainties

Much like Greece, Lebanon will really run the gamut from elite talent down to youngsters, career second graders and, really, anyone who is eligible below that.

The big hitters are bigger than most: Moses and Douehi will be among the best halves pairing in the whole comp, and Abbas Miski and Josh Mansour will bring all the experience in the world on the wingers.

Jacob Kiraz, the man the Bulldogs fans call the Lebanese King, is pure excitement and will likely shift to fullback to allow the two older chaps to go on the wing.

Raiders’ centre Brad Morkos isn’t far off an NRL debut, with Kayne Kalache (Newtown) and Elie El-Zakhem (Parramatta) in the same boat.

Josh Mansour of the Rabbitohs runs

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Probables

There’s a host of NSW Cup talent in this side, so let’s rattle through them. Bilal Maarbani, James Roumanos and Anthony Layoun are second grade lifers. Charbel Tasipale partners Kalache in the back row at Newtown and likely will at the World Cup.

Brothers Adam Rizk and Josh Rizk turned out at the 2019 Nines and have continued in lower grade systems: they’ll get a run. Adam is a halfback, so will likely backup Douehi and Moses, while Josh played fullback against Malta.

Nick Kassis played in 2017 and in their most recent fixture, so he’ll get a run. Reece Robinson has been playing rugby union, but reappeared for the midseason game too.

Dominic Ayoub has been coming off the bench at Ipswich Jets in the Q Cup, which more than qualifies him for this team.

Adam Doueihi of the Tigers converts the try

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Possibles

Things get a little more interesting the deeper into the system you go. Jayden El-Jalkh, a winger, was in the midseason test as were Daniel Arahu, from Cronulla-Caringbah Sharks, played across the forward rotation and his  club teammate Joshua Maree, a second row.

Khalil Rahme is a prop for Mountes in third grade, Christian Yasmin – a tryscoring freak in Shute Shield rugby union – switched for the Malta game and scored twice and Allan Lockwood, once of Q Cup side Burleigh Bears, is in with a shout.

There’s a few Flegg players scattered around. Hanna-Jonathan El-Nchar features regularly in the Panthers at 20s level, Danny Ghantous and Khaled Rajab do the same for the Bulldogs.

Michael Tannous is a regular in the Wests Tigers system and Jacob Karam is a prop at Souths and Jabriel Kalache is at Parra. Jordan Samrani is an outside back with the Sharks.

Predicted Squad

1 Jacob Kiraz
2 Josh Mansour
3 Bilal Maarbani
4 Brad Morkos
5 Abbas Miski
6 Adam Douehi
7 Mitchell Moses
8 Hanna-Jonathan El-Nchar
9 James Roumanos
10 Dominic Ayoub
11 Elie El-Zakham
12 Charbel Tasipale
13 Kayne Kalache
14 Anthony Layoun
15 Daniel Arahu
16 Khalil Rahme
17 Nick Kassis
18 Reece Robinson
19 Joshua Maree
20 Danny Ghantous
21 Christian Yasmin
22 Jacob Karam
23 Josh Rizk
24 Adam Rizk





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