BEIRUT: English Community Lions U-18, the first English team to visit Lebanon in any major sport, has been getting used to the high temperatures and humidity ahead of the first of a two-match series with Liban Espoirs, Lebanon’s under-20 national team, which kicks off Saturday.
“The team has been adjusting well to the weather, which hit 38 degrees Thursday and will be around 36 on game day,” tour manager Andy Harland said. “All the squad has been enjoying the sights and sounds of Lebanon. They’re looking forward to what I’m sure will be a good game, but the main thing is it’s already been a fantastic cultural experience, and we’ve yet to enjoy playing rugby league in this country.”
The squad touched down Tuesday and has set up camp in Hamra, in the heart of West Beirut. Their training base has been the state-of-the-art Hostler Centre, in the middle of the American University of Beirut campus.
Espoirs coach Robin Hachache has been doing his utmost to prepare his side, both physically and mentally, to face vastly more experienced players. “We will do well if the Espoirs do everything we’ve been concentrating on – communication, first and foremost, defending in numbers and controlling the ruck, [as well as] completing a high percentage of sets of six. To make sure we achieve success in all these areas, discipline is the key.”
The Community Lions U-18 side racked up a comprehensive series win against South Africa last year and is seen as one of the most talented editions in the team’s history. But Hachache and his colleague, LRLF official Remond Safi, are under no illusions about the task that awaits the Espoirs.
“It has been great to see the English enjoying the cultural experience,” Safi said. “On the pitch it will be a different story – the experience is all with the English side. The Espoirs will do their best to try and contain them.”