21 Jun 2011

Lebanon's 20-man MENA Championship squad has been released on the eve of interim head coach Thierry Dumainea's arrival from France into Beirut, where he will conduct a week-long training camp before the squad departs for Casablanca.

Ten members of the 2010 Cedars that claimed the inaugural MENA Championship are retained. They are joined by experienced back rows Ghassan Dandach and Ahmad El Masri, both of whom are recalled after missing the 2010 representative season. Added to that core of seasoned players are West Sydney University halfback Hilal Kaarali, who has been in Lebanon for a month now, and former Western Suburbs forward Allen Soultan, who re-joined Balamand, the team he spent three seasons with as a teenager, earlier this season.

“It’s a strong squad filled with experience so Lebanon should be able to produce two good performances in Morocco,” said LRLF Chief Executive Officer Remond Safi. “The players are keen to get working with Thierry Dumaine for one week of high quality preparation.”

Traditionally strong in the middle of the park, Lebanon’s strike power has been lessened by the unavailability of LAU three-quarters Mohamed Jamil, Bahije Saridar and Mazen Kneo, although LAU fullback Walid Yassine provides quality at the back. The forwards will be directed by one of a quintet of uncapped players, Balamand’s Samer Nehmeh. One of the brightest dummy-half prospects Lebanon has unearthed, the 19-year-old should make history by becoming the first Lebanese schools rugby league product to take the field for the national team.

“Following the MENA Championship Thierry will be able to compile a detailed dossier on which Lebanon coach David Bayssari can assess which local players are selected for the world cup qualifiers this autumn,” added Safi.

Lebanon plays Morocco XIII on 29 June and 2 July in Berrechid, a suburb of Casablanca. The match will be attended by representatives of the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sport.

Kamal Ali, Paul Khauli (AUB); Ahmad El Masri (AUST); Michael Elias, Riad Khoury, Sami Mansur, Samer Nehmeh, Gaeton Osman, Allen Soultan (Balamand); Ghassan Dandach, Youssef Helou, Pierre Nasr (Jounieh RLFC) Ibrahim Ballout, Robin Hachache, Rudy Hachache, Jad Hachem, Walid Yassine (LAU Immortals RLFC); Hilal Kaarali (West Sydney University); Monir Finan, Nemer Saliba (Wolves RLFC)