France are expected to claim third sport and progress to the quarter-finals in Group A but Lebanon seem to be the wildcard who everyone is talking about.
PREVIOUS WORLD CUPS
France have played a big part in World Cups in their history, appearing in 13 tournaments since 1954. They have impressed in World Cups as well in recent times, making the quarter-finals in 2000 but didn’t do very well in 2008 as they finished bottom of their group overall. They made the quarter-finals again though in 2013 but lost to England at the DW Stadium.
This year, Lebanon will make their first appearance at a World Cup since 2000 and in that tournament, they lost to New Zealand and Wales but drew 22-22 with the Cook Islands and will look to improve on that this autumn and they will probably aim to pick up two points this time in what is a very difficult group for the Cedars.
WORLD CUP EXPERIENCE
The French have six players in their squad who have previously featured in a World Cup. William Barthau, Damien Cardace, Theo Fages, Eloi Pelissier, Antoni Maria and Benjamin Garcia are the players with that big game experience and this could prove crucial in the game against the Cedars.
Brad Fittler’s Lebanon squad are very inexperienced though, having just one player to have previously played in a World Cup and that was Robbie Farah as he represented Australia at the tournament back in 2008 so it will be interesting to see how that affects the team.
ONES TO WATCH
Theo Fages is the obvious one to watch for France at the World after having two marvellous seasons at St Helens and there is no wonder why five NRL clubs are currently keeping close tabs on him. Toulouse Olympique full-back Mark Kheirallah may also impress this autumn while new Leigh Centurions signing Ilias Bergal is an exciting winger to watch.
Lebanon have a number of NRL players in their team who have had great seasons but Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses are the players who are able of causing all sorts of problems for the opposition. Chris Saab has the most caps for the Cedars with 12 and he is a consistent and reliable player as well.
Catalans Dragons star Fouad Yaha is set to start on the wing while Toulouse Olympique’s new recruit William Bathau will play at scrum-half. Warrington Wolves youngster Benjamin Jullien will feature in the pack alongside Antoni Maria, Jason Baitieri and Benjamin Garcia.
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 Bousquet, 11. Benajmin Garcia, 12. Benjamin Jullien, 13. Jason Baitieri. Subs: 14. Clement Boyer, 15. Nabil Djalout, 16. Thibaut Margalet, 17. Lucas Albert. Reserves: 18. John Boudebza, 19. Olivier Arnoud, 20. Mickael Rouch, 21. Romain Navarrete.
Parramatta Eels trio Anthony Layoun, Tim Mannah and Mitchell Moses will start for Lebanon along with Robbie Farah in the halves. Canterbury Bulldogs ace Michael Lichaa will play at nine, with Wests Tigers trio Alex Twal, Jaleel Seve-Derbas and Andrew Kazzi will also play a part.
LEBANON: 1. Anthony Layoun, 2. Travis Robinson, 3. James Elias, 4. Jason Wehbe, 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. Subs: 14. Mitchell Mamary, 15. Elias Sukkar, 16. Jalell Seve-Derbas, 17. Andrew Kazzi. Reserves: 18. Adam Doueihi, 19. Bilal Maarbani, 20. Jamie Clark, 21. Danny Barakat.
France are the bookmakers’ favourites to beat Lebanon because they are expected to finish in third behind Australia and England in Group A but Lebanon will not be a pushover.
You can watch the game LIVE on Premier Sports at 5am on Sunday 29 October.
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