The draw has been made for the men’s 2020 MEA Championship, with current holders Nigeria facing Lebanon for the first time. Likewise, hosts South Africa have an inaugural encounter with last year’s runners-up Morocco in the double-header semi finals on 13th October.
The two winners will face off in the decider on 17th October, with the 3rd place play-off game taking place beforehand; all matches to be played at the Tuks Stadium in Pretoria.
South Africa RL president, Dr Frans Erasmus, commented: “The high on our calendar this year will definitely be the Middle East Africa Championship. I am looking forward to the event with great expectation and am confident that we can do well.”
His opposite number, Morocco RL president Yamina Abdesselem, said: “We will count on our team spirt to stand us in good stead. To start against South Africa boosts our preparation; it will not be easy, but we intend to give them a little trouble.”
This will be the third MEA Championship, with Lebanon taking the first in 2015, which was a two-legged qualifier against South Africa for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. The tournament was increased to four nations last year and will consider further expansion as it now moves to a two-year cycle. This time, almost all of the 19-man squads will be made up of domestic players, with a maximum number of six heritage players allowed.
“Nigeria are looking forward to the competition in South Africa,” noted their head coach Joe Mbu. “Lebanon will be the toughest challenge we have come across in our infancy as a rugby league nation, nevertheless, the players can’t wait to test themselves, especially as the defending champions.”
Nayef Abi Said, Lebanon RLF CEO, added: “It is good and balanced draw. This will be the first time all our nations have met which adds to the excitement overall. It should be an interesting game to play.”