The venue and format for the Middle East Africa qualifier for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup has changed.
The contest between Lebanon and South Africa, which will determine the eighth nation of 14 to go to the finals in the Antipodes, will now be decided over two matches that will take place on the 25th and 31st of October in Pretoria rather than one in Dubai, as originally scheduled.
Rugby League International Federation CEO, David Collier, commented on the switch, “The MEA qualifier will be played over two matches in South Africa as the registration of rugby league, under the auspice of RLIF, is not yet complete in the United Arab Emirates and, therefore, the option of playing matches in Dubai was not available at this time.”
South Africa RL president Kobus Botha noted, “SARL is extremely excited about hosting this highly prestigious World Cup Qualifier. We aim to present an event to the Rugby League community that showcases the great country we have, with friendly crowds and passionate supporters.
“It will also contribute to the development and awareness of the sport in South Africa. We welcome Lebanon to Pretoria and hope that this is the first of many such tournaments and a small glimpse into what South Africa can offer as a potential host country for the 2021 World Cup.”
His counterpart, Lebanon president Mohamed Habbous, added, “We understand the unexpected situation that has forced this re-think.
“Playing in South Africa puts us at a disadvantage and makes our qualifying for the World Cup that much trickier, but we have faith in the squad and understand that the qualifier must stay in the region. True to the spirit of the Lebanese people, we will give everything we have in order to qualify and give the people at home something to cheer come October.”