Rugby

Michael Cheika's "scary" Lebanon 2006 experience

Raf Diallo
Raf Diallo

09:24 28 Mar 2019


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We had the pleasure of Michael Cheika's company at our Olympia Theatre Roadshow on Wednesday night.

The Australia head coach was back in his native province of Leinster to share yarns from his life and career, alongside some of his former Irish players.

One thing he touched on was his Lebanese heritage. His father had emigrated from the country, before raising the family in Australia.

However, Cheika has maintained close ties with the country. But he did get caught up in the 2006 conflict which occurred during pre-season before his second season in charge at Leinster.

"The day I was supposed to leave was the day that Israel bombed Lebanon," he said.

Scary

"So I was sort of stuck. A lot of the Westerners waited until they got evacuated maybe a month later.

"But I said, 'I've got to get back for pre-season. I can't wait.' So I hired a driver - an Alawite Syrian guy - and it was the most interesting 24 hours of my life, trying to get out of a border.

"We tried about four or five border crossings but couldn't get out. It was pretty scary at the time. I remember the [Leinster] lads knew I was over there - guys like Denis Hickie and Shane Horgan etc. They were giving me a ring to see if I was coming back.

"In retrospect it was interesting but at the time, it was scary. Because I was sitting in no-man's land in the middle of Lebanon and you could hear the fighter planes. It's only a small country, Lebanon. By the time, they bombed, they almost needed the length of the country to turn around.

"You didn't know what was going on. It was an interesting experience. I was happy to get back here when I got back here."

Shane Jennings and Malcolm O'Kelly were the former Leinster players to join us. And Keith Wood was there for the full show and Stephen Ferris joined for the second half. You can watch the full show back on YouTube.

The Roadshow was in association with Heineken Rugby Club #OTBHRC

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Ireland Israel Lebanon Lebanon War Leinster Michael Cheika Off The Ball Rugby Rugby Union

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