Former Panthers and Warriors coach Ivan Cleary will take charge of Lebanon for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Ivan Cleary appointed Lebanon head coach

The Lebanon Rugby League Federation (LRLF) is delighted to announce the appointment of Ivan Cleary as the new head coach of the national team.

The former head coach of the Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Warriors has agreed to take charge of The Cedars at this year's Rugby League World Cup.

Cleary has a wealth of coaching experience, overseeing the Warriors' NRL side between 2006 and 2011, before starting a three-year stint with the Panthers in 2012 with a total of 249 games experience under his belt.

Speaking about his appointment, Cleary said the opportunity to guide a developing nation to this year's Rugby League World Cup was one that he was eager to take up.

"I was privileged to have been involved in the previous Rugby League World Cup with the New Zealand squad, so to now have the opportunity to be the head coach of a developing nation such as Lebanon is something that I'm really excited about," Cleary said.

"The Lebanese Rugby League Federation has worked hard to establish their local competition and I believe that this is an important opportunity to help lift the exposure of the game - particularly from a grassroots level.

"With Lebanon qualifying for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, I believe we have a huge opportunity to increase participation numbers in Lebanon and that's really important for the growth of the international game.

"From a cultural perspective, the tournament is important for a lot of players to either represent their country of birth, or for those who were born outside of Lebanon, to represent their family heritage.

"I'm looking forward to working with the Lebanon team and the Rugby League World Cup tournament is a great chance to showcase the great talent that the nation has to offer," he said.

The Rugby League World Cup 2017 will be only the second time The Cedars have qualified for the sport's pinnacle international event and LRLF CEO, Remond Safi, said the appointment of Cleary sends a clear message around their aspirations heading into the tournament.

"Having Ivan appointed as the Lebanon Cedars head coach is definitely a move in the right direction and it’s an appointment that shows that we are genuine about the competing in this year's World Cup," Safi said.

"Having a successful campaign and reaching the next round will certainly take the game to another level with attracting new interest to the game in Lebanon and lay a pathway for players to play at international level.

"Working with players and staff in our local competition in Lebanon, as well as our Australian-based squad members, will be an important part of the role and we believe we have the right man for the job.

"Ivan has a wealth of experience in rugby league, both as a player and coach, and I believe it will be of great benefit to our players as preparations continue for the World Cup later this year,” he said.

The Lebanon Rugby League Federation are also pleased to announce Jasara Constructions as a proud partner of the team and head coach Ivan Cleary.

Managing Director Mr Jeffery Sahyoun said supporting the development of the game within the Lebanese community is imperative.

"The appointment of Ivan Cleary, who is highly respected within the game, clearly indicates that the Lebanese Rugby League are moving in the right direction to up skill our players and staff within our community," Sahyoun said.

"This is a vision that I support to ensure the continued development of our people within the game of Rugby League," he said.

Lebanon, currently ranked 21 in the world, have been drawn in Pool A in this year's Rugby League World Cup and will play Australia, England and France during the pool stages, with the top three teams progressing to the Quarter Finals:

Lebanon vs France, 29 October 2017, Canberra Stadium

Lebanon vs England, 5 November 2017, Sydney Football Stadium

Lebanon vs Australia, 11 November 2017, Sydney Football Stadium.