Lebanon is aiming to retain the Mediterranean Cup on 3 June when the Cedars face Italy in Beirut. And as last year in Sicily, when the Cedars edged a superb game, 26-22, against the Azzurri, the encounter will be between teams of domestically-produced Lebanese and Italian players only.
Originally played for in 2002, the Cup was relaunched last year with that stipulation, as the Federazione Italiana Rugby League and Lebanese Rugby League Federation continue to strengthen a bilateral relationship that also saw an historic women’s Test match played in February.
The inaugural match was between France and Lebanon, and the Cup was played for in Tripoli between the hosts, France, Morocco and Serbia for two more years, before a 12-year hiatus kept it in mothballs until last year.
To date, Lebanon is the defending and also the only Mediterranean Cup holder.
“Our players in Lebanon take nothing for granted,” commented Lebanon’s Director of Performance, Tarek Houchar who, as interim head coach, led the Cedars to a 24-4 win against Malta earlier this month. “Their passion, commitment and attitude towards representing their country is exemplary and I am excited to see some fresh new faces in our train-on squad.
“Our biggest aim is to create a culture amongst the players that will leave a great legacy for the Cup. Retaining the title this year will be our objective but playing for one another will be its own victory.”
Italy coach, Kelly Rolleston noted: “This match is played at the start of our domestic season, and with 2017 being a World Cup year, all our players are motivated to put in a good performance and show the coaching staff what they can offer. We have had a couple of camps in the north and south of Italy recently and the number of young players present as well as the enthusiasm shown by all involved, was impressive.
“This is the first of several opportunities our domestic players will have this year, to put their hands up for the autumn.”