Nine of the 17 that clinched a berth in next year’s World Cup are included in the 17-man Lebanon squad which faces Cook Islands at Belmore this Sunday. The Cedars will, however, be without long-serving skipper Chris Saab and veteran vice-captain Ray Moujali (pictured, versus Cooks Islands in 2012), who are both injured.
Debutants Dominic Ayoub, Bernard Kairouz, Jason Wehbe and Elie El Zakhem come into the side while, for the Cooks, only Geoff Daniella survives from the team that defeated Lebanon 28-24 in the nation’s last meeting in October 2012. Interim Lebanon head coach Tarik Houchar will take charge of his first match following Darren Maroon’s resignation, for personal reasons.
“Coaching the Lebanon national team is an honour,” said the 43-year-old. “I’m humbled to take such a prestigious role. I’m confident that the boys will do our country proud on Sunday and that the reaction will filter through to the domestic competition in Lebanon,” continued Houchar, who coaches Guildford in the Ron Massey Cup. It’s been 17 long years since Lebanon last qualified for the World Cup and our aim is to compete in every game in the lead up and earn the respect from other nations.”
COOK ISLANDS KUKIS SQUAD
Francis Molo (Brisbane Broncos), Makahesi Makatoa, Ruebenn Rennie (Canterbury Bulldogs), Eric Newbeginnings (Illawarra Cutters), Delaney Ashby (Mackay Cutters), Moses Noovao-McGril (Manly Sea Eagles), Vinnie Ngaro (Moorepark), Uiti Baker (Newcastle Knights), Levi McBirney, Chanze Nichol-Klostad (NZ Warriors), Troy Dargan (Parramatta Eels), Tupou Sopoanga (Penrith Panthers), Geoff Daniella (St Mary’s), Wallace Tangiiti (Wentworthville Magpies), Chance Peni (Wests Tigers), Carne Doyle-Manga, Zane Tetevano (Wyong Roos)
LEBANON CEDARS SQUAD
Mark Daoud, Abbas Miskie (Asquith Magpies), Danny Barakat, Jamie Clark, Abraham El Zakhem (Auburn Warriors), Dylan Makdessi (Bankstown bulls), Mario Boustani (Bulldogs) Dominic Ayoub (Cabramatta), Allen Soultan (Campbelltown City Kangaroos), Elie El Zakhem (Guildford Owls), James Boustani, Jason Wehbe (Hills Bulls), Bernard Kairouz (Manly Warringah), Daniel Abou-Sleiman, Ahmed Ellaz, Tarek El Masri (Newtown Jets), Hassan Haddara (Port Kembla), Ali Allouche (St George Illawarra), Nick Kassis, Mitchell Mamary (Wentworthville Magpies), Adnan El Zbaidieh (Unattached)