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WALES v LEBANON PREVIEW:
An international match kicks off Challenge Cup Final weekend here in the Principality with sides from Wales and Lebanon facing each other at the Brewery Field in Bridgend on Friday (kick-off 7.15pm).
Lebanese Rugby League started in 1997 when they entered the World Sevens in Sydney, reaching the quarter-finals. In 1998, they played their first full games of rugby winning friendly matches against Italy, Japan and France. In 1999, they entered, and won, the World Cup qualifying tournament. Despite not winning a match in the 2000 World Cup, the Lebanon national side have not lost a game since and are rightly placed sixth in the World in the unofficial rankings, two places above Wales. The team Wales will be facing on Friday are the 'Espoirs' which roughly translates as 'hopefuls'. This is their A side, drawn exclusively from their five-team domestic league that started in 2002. They kicked off their tough nine-day campaign on Tuesday in Lancaster against the England A side losing 26-0 but not disgracing themselves.
"If you take away the first five minutes, it was a great game, we defended well for most of the game and attacked well also," said Lebanon head coach, Remond Safi. "Fullback Pierre Nasr had a fantastic game, whilst 17 year old Alan Sultan at loose forward was a revelation. Props George Helou and Antoine Samarani had great games taking the ball up all night and 'giving it' to the English. As a team we learnt a lot from it, and we are looking forward to our next challenge down in Wales."
Following the Welsh match, Lebanon will complete their trip in the Bristol nine-a-side tournament on 28 August. This tour is serving as a trial for full national team honours ahead of October's Mediterranean Cup, where the local players will be joined by Lebanon's elite Australian-based professionals in the defence of the title. Wales are using this game to view any fringe players who didn?t play in the first two A internationals against Scotland and Ireland. The side will be a mix of students who were at the World Cup in Australia, Wales U19s and also players that have been unavailable for internationals so far this season.
No Bridgend Blue Bulls players are included in the squad due to their appearance in Sunday's National Conference Premier Final at the Brewery Field.
"It's part of Wales' strength that we have so many players that are capable of international rugby," said Wales coach, Wayne Williams. "It's been another first class year here in the Welsh Conference. All the lads that have been selected here deserve a chance in the Wales A squad and this is their chance to prove themselves. There are places available for the international against England on September and that's what everyone will be playing for."
Entrance to the match is the normal price for WRL games at the Brewery Field, ?3 for adults and ?1 for children and senior citizens. Wales Squad: Matt Jackson (Cardiff Demons), David Davies (Torfaen Tigers), Geraint Davies (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Jesse Farthing (Torfaen Tigers), Adam Dawe (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Karl Thomas (Valley Cougars), Scott O'kelly (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Pat Howell(Cardiff Demons), David Fenton (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Dennis Pugh (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Andy Llewellyn (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Chris Williams (Torfaen Tigers), Adrian Owen (Valley Cougars), Dewi Scourfield (Cardiff Demons), Mark Dando (Cardiff Demons), Jason Massey (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Martin Crawley (Newport Titans), Gavin Curry (UWIC), Jon Breakingbury (Valley Cougars). Lebanon Squad: Gilbert Haydamous, Elias Khoury, Naji Bassil, Jad Abinassif, Wassim Moumneh, Pierre Nasr, Hadi Yashruti, Jawad Fakih, Rany Chahoud, Hassan Taha, Bassel Rehayem, George Helou, Omar Darwish, Alan Sultan, Amin Maassarani, Antoine Samarani, Ibrahim Ballout, Georges Rehayem, Youssef El Helou.
LEBANESE RUGBY: A COMPLETE RECORD
World Sevens 1997 8/2/97 v Melbourne (Sydney) 22-4 8/2/97 v NSW Country 16-14 9/2/97 v Parramatta 10-22 National Side Friendly Matches 11/7/98 v Italy (Sydney) 24-6 15/11/98 v Japan (Nobeoka) 52-28 20/8/99 v France (Sydney) 26-4 World Cup 2000 Qualifying tournament 11/11/99 v Italy (Perpignan) 36-16 14/11/99 v France (Toulouse) 24-38 17/11/99 v Morocco (Avingon) 104-0 21/11/99 v USA (Orlando) 62-8 World Cup 2000 Warm-up Matches 24/8/00 v South Sydney (Sydney) 24-42 1/10/00 v Australian Combined Services (Sydney) 76-0 World Cup 2000 29/10/00 v New Zealand (Gloucester) 0-64 2/11/00 v Wales (Llanelli) 22-24 5/11/00 v Cook Islands (Millennium Stadium) 22-22 Mediterranean Cup 2002 2/11/02 v France (Tripoli) 36-6 Mediterranean Cup 2003 19/10/03 v Serbia (Tripoli) 102-0 22/10/03 v Morocco (Beirut) 60-0 25/10/03 v France (Tripoli) 26-18 Mediterranean Cup 2004 2/10/04 v Serbia (Tripoli) 64-6 5/10/04 v Morocco (Tripoli) 48-14 9/10/04 v France (Tripoli) 42-14 Liban Espoirs Tour to Morocco 2003 7/2/03 v Casablanca & Rabat XIII (Casablanca) 6-46 10/2/03 v Casablanca & Rabat Under 23s (Rabat) 8-40 Oxford University in Lebanon 2004 13/1/04 v Oxford University (Al Mina) 12-24 18/1/04 v Oxford University (Balamand) 4-24
Friday 26 August ?A? International Tour Match Wales vs Lebanon , Brewery Field, Bridgend - 7.15pm
Saturday August 27 Powergen Champions Schools Year 7 Final Brynteg (Bridgend) v Castleford High at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 12.45pm
Powergen Challenge Cup Final Hull FC vs Leeds Rhinos at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 2.30pm
Sunday August 28 Total RL.com National Conference Final Bridgend Blue Bulls vs Leeds Akkies at Brewery Field, Bridgend, 2.30pm