(MENAFN - Arab News) Three Jeddah schools are to send a combined under-16 rugby league team to compete in a four team tournament in Lebanon.
They will meet teams from Lebanon, Qatar, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom will be represented by the best of the best under-16 team drawn from the Rugby League Under-16 Interschool tournament at the American International School (AISJ) in Jeddah on Wednesday.
Competing against AISJ, the British International School in Jeddah (BSIJ) and Jeddah Prep and Grammar School (JPG) fielded strong 11-a-side teams with up to five substitutes, all of whose players vied for places in the final 18 for the honor of who will represent the Kingdom and Jeddah.
AISJ have already sent two teams to compete in Lebanon and were the groundbreakers, sending the first ever inter Gulf-state teams in 2008.
"Altogether this was an excellent night and it is good to see that the quality of the game keeps improving," said Nicholls summing up Wednesday's triangular series.
"It is especially good to see that the tackling was clean and legal and there were no serious injuries."
Since their last meeting in 2009, the playing standards of all teams have risen markedly. The effects of the schools' coaches were clear to see.
For all three teams, handling skills were sharper, disciplined and coordinated, and both aggression and determination of a whole new order.
While the games were used to select the 18 to visit Lebanon, they were also the annual interschool rugby league trophy tournament, a hotly contested local trophy.
The BSIJ defeated JPG in a close game 12-8, and followed up with a crisp and workmanlike win over AISJ 18-0, in a close game that was not representative of the score. Creaking after their efforts, AISJ lost to BISJ 6 tries to nil in a spirited but fatigued effort to clinch their opponents clean sweep and retention of the trophy.
The former match in particular was a demonstration of the work put in by coaches Dave Kinkead and David Martin (BISJ) and Chris Ratcliffe (JPGS) and the dedication of the teams to training.
AISJ, however, under the Nicholls watchful eye and the coaching team of Archie Frame, Mark McGinnis and Graham McRaith they were a vastly different team from its last run-out.
They were undoubtedly the most improved of the three and did not present themselves as a pushover. Both BISJ and JPGS had to use all their defensive skills to keep them away form their try line.
The Lebanon expedition will be no easy jaunt. Lebanon under-16 were defeated by Qatar English Schools in a recent clash in Doha and the Lebanese team triumphed over Jeddah on their last outing. Jeddah will be looking to revenge the defeat and bring back some silverware.
Arabia's inclusion in the challenge reflects the increasing profile of rugby of both disciplines - league and union - in the Kingdom. Long a sport played exclusively by expatriates, its appeal has steadily increased to the extent that teams sent to the Dubai Sevens fielded up to 50 percent Saudi players.