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Twenty-five of Lebanon?s most promising young rugby league players have been selected to play Oxford University in a two match series next month.
One of England?s most traditional and famous institutions, Oxford University has an established and globally recognized sporting pedigree. Played a few months before the world famous Boat Race, the Rugby League varsity match in March is the most widely watched student rugby league event in the UK. As part of this years preparation for that fixture a squad of 20 students will embark on a historic tour of Lebanon, playing two internationals against Liban Espoir on 9 and 13 January.
Liban Espoir was formed in February 2003 to offer the country?s best players a representative structure in which to improve their skills and experience. Five players included in that inaugural tour to Morocco went on to be selected alongside 15 professional players for the Lebanon squad that triumphed in October?s Mediterranean Cup.
Lebanese Rugby League Committee vice-president Danny Kazandjian claims that the trip by Oxford will set Liban Espoir a stern test: ?Oxford will be a strong squad made up of experienced players, many of whom have been playing the sport since they were five-years-old. In contrast each Liban Espoir squad member will have an average of about 20-months of rugby league experience under his belt. Having said that, our technical level and knowledge has improved over the past year since we toured Morocco, with another two domestic seasons having been played and an increased player pool, so it promises to be a fascinating contest.?
Defending Winter champions AUB retained their title on 13 December, defeating reigning Spring champions LAU 20-12 in the last domestic rugby league action of the year. AUB players dominate coach Ghazi Alali?s selection, which will be reduced to 19 on 6 January.
Oxford University Rugby League Club joint president and tour organiser, Matt Scaife, says that his players are eagerly anticipating touring Lebanon. "We are delighted to be representing the British Student Rugby League on our forthcoming trip to Lebanon. To be given the opportunity to visit such a culturally diverse country whilst playing the sport we love is an immense privilege. Hopefully our visit will give a boost to the profile of the student game in general, as well as contributing to the specific development work of the Lebanese RL."
Liban Espoir squad: Anthony Letayf, Jihad Ashkar, Bassel Raghen, Jad El Masri, Jad Abinassif, Peter Danner, Omar Ghizzaoui, Edib Samara, Wasim Mumneh (all AUB); Lemah Mourad, Hassan Taha, Christian Helou, Wissam Atieh, Lebanon Alamuddine, Elie Bechara, Gilbert Haydamous (all UOB);Charbel Raad, Sami Halabi, Karim Abdo, Rudi Hachache, Salim Frem (all LAU); Elie Nehme, Aboudi Daoud, Pierre Nasr (all UOB); Maher Darwish (AUST).