Lebanon’s ability to capture the imagination of Sydney fans will see the emerging nation included in next year’s round of Pacific Test matches.
7th Tackle can reveal the Cedars are close to signing-off on agreement to play Papua New Guinea during the representative weekend, which has been re-scheduled to align with a revived stand-alone State of Origin fixture on the weekend of 23/24 June.
Despite support from some quarters in the NRL, Lebanon was overlooked for this year’s Campbelltown Stadium triple header featuring England, Samoa, Fiji, PNG, Cook Islands and Tonga.
But the Cedars’ drawing power in two Sydney World Cup games over the past fortnight has triggered a change of thinking.
After witnessing the atmosphere generated by drum-banging Lebanese fans at the SFS in fixtures against Australia and England, NRL officials were convinced to include Brad Fittler’s men.
Expected to be appointed NSW Origin coach in the coming weeks, Fittler will most likely be on Blues duty in Melbourne for Game II of the Interstate series that weekend.
His World Cup assistant, Luke Burt, would be considered an early favourite to take over as Lebanon coach.
The venue for next year’s Pacific Tests is yet to be determined, but the purposeful inclusion of Lebanon makes Sydney a short-priced favourite to be host city.