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RLWC Preview: Lebanon vs. France

Dan Talintyre (Twitter: @dantalintyre)

FRA v LEB

While it might be their first game of the tournament, France’s clash against Lebanon this Saturday in Canberra has the feel of a sudden death clash to it.

With three teams from Group A set to qualify through to the knockout rounds, one win will likely be enough for the third-placed team to get through the group stage. And with wins over Australia or England unlikely for the pair set to do battle this weekend, which ever team emerges victorious from GIO Stadium will seemingly have booked their spot in the knockout rounds — not that either side needed any more motivation to win.

Lebanon head in to the tournament with a smattering of NRL experience in their ranks but are yet to taste victory at the World Cup from two attempts. A good hit-out against the Niue Islands prior to the tournament showed that Brad Fittler’s side will be competitive in the tournament, and they’ll be hoping their additional experience (with the likes of Tim Mannah and Robbie Farah) is enough to topple the French this weekend.

France are clearly the favourites for the contest given their history playing together and the large presence of Catalans Dragons players in their squad. Les Chanticleers won just one game at the 2013 World Cup (a 9-8 win over PNG) but do have good form on their side, having won three of their last four Test matches played against Ireland and Wales.

Their final hit-out before the World Cup was also a successful one — defeating Jamaica 34-12 — putting both sides in good form for what should be an intriguing encounter.
 

Group A: France vs. Lebanon

MATCH DETAILS

Date — Sunday, October 29, 2017

Time — 4:00pm AEST

Venue — GIO Stadium, Canberra

 

LIVE STREAM AND TV INFORMATION

Live Stream — Channel 7’s https://7live.com.au/ (Australia only)

TV — Click here for a full country-by-country list of TV broadcasts.

 

TEAM NEWS

France — 1. Mark Kheirallah 2. Fouad Yaha 3. Bastien Ader 4. Damien Cardace 5. Ilias Bergal 6. Theo Fages 7. William Barthau 8. Antoni Maria 9. Eloi Pelissier 10. Julian Bousqet 11. Benjamin Garcia 12. Benjamin Jullien 13. Jason Baitieri (Interchange: 14. Clement Boyer 15. Nabil Djalout 16. Thibault Margalet 17. Lucas Albert) — Coach: Aurelien Cologni

Reserves: 18. John Boudebza 19. Olivier Arnold 20. Mickael Rouch 21. Romain Navarrete

Lebanon — 1. Anthony Layoun 2. Travis Robinson 3. James Elias 4. Jason Webhe 5. Abbas Miski 6. Mitchell Moses 7. Robbie Farah 8. Tim Mannah 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Alex Twal 11. Chris Saab 12. Ahmad Ellaz 13. Nick Kassis (Interchange: 14. Mitchell Mamary 15. Elias Sukkar 16. Jaleel Seve-Derbas 17. Andrew Kazzi) — Coach: Brad Fittler

Reserves: 18. Adam Doueihi 19. Bilal Maarbani 20. Jamie Clark 21. Danny Bakarat

 

RLWC STANDINGS — POOL A

 

Played

Won

Lost

F/A

Points

Australia

-

-

-

-

-

England

-

-

-

-

-

France

-

-

-

-

-

Lebanon

-

-

-

-

-

 

HISTORY

Interestingly, France and Lebanon have met on three occasions in history, with the Cedars holding a surprise 2-1 advantage of their opponents — which included wins in both of their recent encounters. They have not met since a friendly in 2003 (which Lebanon won 26-18 in Tripoli), while Lebanon also won their one-off match the year before with a 36-6 thrashing. France’s sole win over the Cedars came in 1999 as part of the Mediterranean Cup, with the hosts winning a tight 38-24 affair in Toulouse.

 

PLAYER TO FOLLOW — Anthony Layoun, Lebanon

With the likes of Michael Lichaa, Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses dominating the other three positions of the spine, Anthony Layoun’s role in the Lebanon attack certainly won’t be as prolific as other fullbacks in the competition, but don’t underestimate the youngsters’ talent here. A former U/15 Australian Schoolboys currently playing in the Parramatta Eels Holden Cup side, Layoun chalked up 14 tries and 18 linebreaks in an impressive 2017 season and will look to carry that form over here for the Cedars. If Lebanon are to spring an upset over France, their attack will need to be firing on all cylinders, with Layoun’s finishing on the chances created by the spine pivotal to that.

 

PREDICTION

Lebanon might be the lowest ranked country at the World Cup, but with a must-win game against France on the line, this one will be much much closer than the rankings suggest. Given the touch of NRL class in their ranks, we'll lean slightly with the Cedars for the upset, but wouldn't be surprised if it goes either way. Lebanon by 4.

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