Written by John Davidson
Lebanon international Abbas Miski believes having former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika guiding the Cedars at this year’s World Cup is a huge boost to the Middle Eastern nation.
Lebanon surprised the world when they reached the quarter-finals of the 2017 tournament, under coach Brad Fittler, pushing Tonga all the way.
In the 2021 tournament the Cedars have been drawn in Group C alongside New Zealand, Jamaica and Ireland. They will be likely battling out against the Reggae Warriors and Wolfhounds for a spot in the knockout stages.
Cheika has taken the reins of Lebanon, with Fittler set to assist him, and winger Miski feels this special coaching line-up will bear fruit in the World Cup.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet [Cheika] but I was speaking to a few of the Lebanon boys about it and that’s really exciting,” Miski told Everything Rugby League.
“Obviously we had Brad Fittler last time and that was great, and this is just as good. I’m looking forward to working with him.
“To have both of them is even better. It makes a massive difference having guys like that involved.
“Mostly it’s the players that make a difference, but if we didn’t have ‘Freddy’ in 2017 we wouldn’t haven’t gone as far as we did.”
Like Miski, Cheika is Australian born and raised with Lebanese heritage. The 53-year-old made his name coaching rugby union, but has more recently served as a coaching consultant to Trent Robinson at the Roosters.
Former Manly flyer Miski has played 10 tests for Lebanon since making his debut six years ago.
“So I started playing for Lebanon in 2014, it was the Hayne-Mannah Cup,” the 25-year-old Penrith-born outside back said.
“I was a young kid and there was a lot of big boys in the team. They threw me into halfback and it was my very first game for the team.
“I just keep playing from then and every game I’ve played for them I absolutely love. In 2017 the World Cup we went well, but I’ve played every position for Lebanon. I just love putting on that jersey.
“The last World Cup was a bit of an eye-opener for us as well. We surprised other teams, we surprised ourselves as well, just knowing what we can do.
“Obviously we’ve lost a couple of big-name players – Robbie Farah, Tim Mannah, guys like that – but we’ve still got a good chunk of NRL experience and some really, really good young kids coming through.”
Miski recently signed with London Broncos for the 2021 season.
“That was one of the things to get me over board to London, with the World Cup at the end of the year,” he said.
“Getting used to the weather, the conditions and everything there and it will be a comfortable transition.”
Lebanon will be without the likes of veterans Farah and Mannah at the 2021 tournament, but are expected to feature NRL players such as Alex Twal and Josh Mansour.
The Cedars kick off their campaign against the Kiwis in Warrington on October 24.
“Josh is looking forward to playing for Lebanon as well,” Miski said.
“Whether we’re on different wings or the same edge, I’m keen to get a game with him. All I’ve done is play against him, so it will be really good to play with him.”