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England v Lebanon preview
Are the giant killing Cedars ready to cause a boilover?
Results don't mean everything, but they're a good indication of where teams can be at in this early stage of the tournament. New Zealand were thrashed 30-6 by Australia on the second day of the 2008 World Cup but we all know where that ended up. England's 18-4 loss to Australia saw the visitors face plenty of criticism despite being within striking distance for most of the clash. All Wayne Bennett asked was for his side to be competitive agains the World Champions, and while he certainly received what he asked for, many spectators finished the game knowing that the English were capable of much more. The simple errors once again cost them against a determined Australian side, not helping was the fact that superstar Sam Burgess was sitting injured on the sideline. The English better get used to that, as his World Cup campaign is already all but over. The Big Three teams are expected to once again do well for the Cup, but as many have said previously, the gap is closing.
Enter Lebanon. After missing the last two World Cup tournaments, the Cedars made up for lost time with a memorable victory over France to open up their campaign in style. A late flurry of points saw the Lebanese side, lead by first graders Mitchell Moses, Robbie Farah and Tim Mannah, take the tight contest completely away from the experienced French outfit. Coming into the second week of the competition and the potential for a dream campaign is being written around the Lebanese, with even noteable commentators such as Matthew Johns tipping that they will not only compete against England, but potentially win. With a side mostly filled with lower grade talent, can the exciting Cedars conjure up an all time great Rugby League upset?
Who to watch: Littered with stars, it's hard to highlight a player from the English side. There are plenty of National Rugby League players in the squad who ply their trade in Sydney so should feel right at home, but two spine members who are both coming off amazing seasons need to find their way still in the international arena. St Helens fullback Jonny Lomax showed plenty of effort in a defeated side, but had difficulty handing onto the football. Super League fans will all know what Lomax is capable of, and his performance in Melbourne certainly fits the lower end. The real improve needs to come from Man Of Steel winner Luke Gale. Gale had a bad night defensively and couldn't seem to get the game going in England's direction on the attack. If both players can show improvement, England will get closer and closer to once again being a legitimate threat to the title.
It was certainly a tale of two halves for a half. Mitchell Moses showed glimpses of his amazing capabilities when he transferred to the Parramatta Eels. His World Cup debut was extraordinary, particularly the end. His field goal gave the Cedars the lead in a tight game before a memorable solo effort saw him kick and chase his way to a match winning try. Moses is definitely the key for the Lebanese success.
My tip: Lebanon will bring alot of spirit to this game, but England simply have too much structure and skill for the Cedars. For one of the two games to be played in Sydney, hopefully a lively crowd will boost both of these sides for what could be an interesting match. England by 22.
21. Stefan Ratchford 2. Jermaine McGillvary 3. Kallum Watkins 4. John Bateman 5. Ryan Hall 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Luke Gale 8. Chris Hill 9. Josh Hodgson 10. James Graham 11. Ben Currie 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Sean O'Loughlin 14. Alex Walmsley 15. Chris Heighington 16. Thomas Burgess 18. George Williams
1. Daniel Abou Sleiman 2. Travis Robinson 3. Bilal Maarbani 4. Adam Doueihi 5. Abbas Miski 6. Mitchell Moses 7. Robbie Farah 8. Tim Mannah 16. Jamie Clark 14. Mitchell Mamary 10. Alex Twal 12. Ahmad Ellaz 13. Nick Kassis 9. Michael Lichaa 15. Ray Moujalli 17. Jason Wehbe 18. Elias Sukkar