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Lebanon have been confirmed hosts for their third Mediterranean Cup tournament in a row, and in what should be Rugby League?s largest Mediterranean Cup to date. The Mediterranean Cup was part of the original Rugby League World Cup dream, the establishment of small regular tournaments around the world to both raise interest in the sport, together with an aim to improve the competitiveness of national sides.
The first ever Mediterranean Cup was held in 1999 in the South of France, with Morocco, Italy, Lebanon and the French competing. France was in the tournament simply so the French Federation could test a number of its young upcoming players on the international stage, their results did not matter, as it was a battle between Morocco, Italy and Lebanon in terms of who would have the chance to challenge for a spot in the Rugby League World Cup. France finished on top of the ladder which was no surprise, with Lebanon finishing second, and progressing to a show down between them and the United States for the 16th spot in the 2000 World Cup.
A surprise result in the inaugural Mediterranean Cup was Italy?s win over France, after the Italians had lost to Lebanon in the opening clash.
The Mediterranean Cup concept then laid dormant till 2002 when a match between France and Lebanon was organised in Tripoli to decide the Mediterranean champions. Lebanon won, and also won the right to hold the last tournament in 2003.
2003 saw the inclusion of Serbia, and the reintroduction of Morocco into the tournament. France and Lebanon again met in the all important final match, and again Lebanon surprised everyone and won the tournament.
Now in 2004, at least one new nation will take part in the tournament, with the Greek Rugby League being invited to compete against last years four competitors. The Greeks, who played two internationals in 2003, are a very competitive outfit, defeating New Calendonia, and then only just losing to Italy in the matches.
Italy, who in 2003 had their first ever Rugby League matches played in the European Nation, with Veneto taking on Marche & Lazio in a North V South State of Origin concept, and a Padova Selection taking on the touring Scotland students, have also been thought to have been re-invited back to the Mediterranean Cup, however this has not yet been confirmed.
The expansion of this tournament, together with the Victory Cup, and the retaining of the European Nations Cup for 2004 has promised a very big year for European Rugby League.