Lebanon have made three changes to their 20 man squad after their 96-4 home win over Serbia in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup European Zone Qualifiers, for their clash against Russia in Vereya on Saturday.
In come prop Charlie Farah, a cousin of West Tigers’ Robbie; veteran centre Danny Chiha who played in the previous World Cup qualifiers and second rower Chris Saab who had been in the original selection for the Serbian clash but was ruled out by an ankle injury. Out go Walid Yassine, Ahmad Ellaz and Youssef El Helou.
According to Cedars coach David Baysarri, “The team has prepared well and been performing well in training. Everyone has quickly adapted to game plan and there is a really good feel and sprit in team.”
Charlie Farah commented, “Coming in late you can tell the boys are all primed for a big two weeks. Although we are not looking far ahead, it’s hard not to see the Italy game as the major prize.”
Remond Safi, Lebanon’s Chief Operating Officer and Team Manager, is on familiar territory but with greater confidence. “I’m looking forward this time round going to Moscow and into this match knowing our odds are much higher than 2008 where our squad was from the domestic league,” he noted.
In their build-up, Russia coaching assistant John Stankevitch has revealed that a mid-air drama on the way back from their 92-6 defeat in Italy almost got him and his team locked up for being illegal immigrants.
An abusive passenger, who was eventually restrained by the Russian players, caused the international side’s flight to be grounded in Frankfurt – and the five-hour delay sent them past the expiry time of their travel visas.
“The flight wasn’t the ideal preparation for another tough game this weekend,” he said. “But at least we’re back safely.”
Association of Russian Rugby League Clubs President Edgard Taturyan added, “The game against Lebanon will be as tough as the one in Italy. But we're satisfied because the high density of games with such professional teams provides us with much needed information to construct the strategy of our development for the coming couple of years.”
“We're also satisfied with the way our leading veterans Eduard Ososkov, Vadim Fedchuk and Petr Butnarash have been helping the side. We're hoping our debutant winger Alexey Volkov will be back on the pitch after missing the game in Italy due to flu and that two new players Vladimir Odnosumov and Anatoly Grygorev will enforce our scrum and guide our boys to a more organized and reliable performance in defence.”
Andrey Zdobnikov (Dinamo), Grigory Esin (Nevskaya Zastava), Artem Grigoryan, Vladimir Odnosumov (RBK), Igor Chuprin, Vadim Fedchuk, Vladimir Gotsulyak, Alexey Volkov (Storm), Petr Botnarash, Rustam Bulanov, Mikhail Burlutskuy, Ilgiz Galimov, Sergey Gaponov, Anatoly Grygorev, Sergey Konstantinov, Aleksander Lysokon, Alexey Nikolaev, Eduard Ososkov, Maksim Suchkov, Vladimir Vlasyuk (RC Vereya)
Allen Soultan, (Balamand); Nick Kassis (Cabramatta); Steve Azzi (Canterbury Bulldogs); Ibrahim Ballout, Robin Hachache, Walid Yassine (LAU Immortals RLFC); Ray Moujalli (Manly Sea Eagles); Adham El Zabedieh, Adnan El Zabedieh (Mounties); Charlie Farah (Narrabeen); Jamie Clark, Khaled Deeb (Newtown Jets); Danny Barakat, Danny Chiha, Nadim Couri, Ali Kourouche, Chris Saab, Adnan Saleh (St John’s Eagles); James Boustani, Clifton Nye (Wentworthville)