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PNG captain Neville Costigan believes Mal Meninga's influence can make the Kumuls the surprise package of the World Cup

PNG Captain speaking to 2013 Rugby League World Cup TV
PAPUA New Guinea captain Neville Costigan believes having Mal Meninga in their camp can make the Kumuls the surprise package in this World Cup.

Earlier this year, Meninga coached Queensland to a record eighth successive State of Origin series win.

Now he's helping PNG coach Adrian Lam with their World Cup quest.

Costigan admits having a true rugby legend like the former Australian Test centre on board can turn the Kumuls from rank outsiders to semi-final hopefuls.

"Having Mal Meninga helping us is a massive bonus for us," Costigan told the Mail.

"He's like a god back in PNG and when he talks, the players listen.

"He brings a good balance to the squad both on and off the pitch.

"We are lucky to have him in our camp and he can be the difference between getting out of the group and into the knockout matches.

"He's coached at the highest level with Queensland and he knows the ingredients to win big games.

"Eight State of Origin series wins speaks for itself and games don't come any bigger than that.

"I definitely think this could be the World Cup of shocks.

"Last weekend were trial matches and maybe there were one or two big players not playing in those matches, but you always want to win regardless.

"Teams like Italy and USA can come good and that's great to see instead of seeing the big three up there all the time."

Already it seems Meninga is working his magic with the Kumuls.

PNG weren't expected to beat a Danny Brough-led Scotland side last weekend in their warm-up game, but they did with 18 points to spare.

Costigan admits that win has lifted confidence and morale to a whole new level.

"We needed that win over Scotland to give us some confidence and belief going into the World Cup," Costigan said.

"Some of our players are really young and if we had lost that game, things might have gone through their heads.

"We're in a positive state of mind right now.

"Adrian Lam said he's never seen a squad with so many leaders in it.

"We have been lacking that for the last few years.

"We have a good mix and there are some NRL players with their heads screwed on.

"Hopefully we can use that balance to our advantage."

PNG start their World Cup tomorrow against France at Craven Park.

While the Kumuls go into the game buoyed by the success of beating Scotland at Featherstone, France enter the game on the back of a 22-18 defeat to USA.

Costigan is expecting a backlash when the two sides meet.

"Ideally, you don't want to play a team that has lost the week before," Costigan said.

"We are expecting a reaction from them.

"As long as we just stick to what we do best and what we can control.

"We can't worry too much about the French and hopefully we can go close to winning it."

If tomorrow's opener is a close encounter, it might come down to the support from the stands at Hull KR's ground.

Four of the Robins' new signings for next season are on show for PNG.

Costigan will be joined by prop Enoch Maki and back Francis Paniu, while Kevin Larroyer will be in the French side.

Costigan admits the close relationship between PNG and Craven Park might give them a slight advantage.

"We didn't think we'd have much support," Costigan said.

"But with the Stanley Gene factor, we can be most people's second team after England.

"Hopefully we can get as much support as we can as we'll need it.

"Enoch and Francis are both very good players.

"They are only young and they are coming through.

"We'll all want to show the KR fans what they can expect next season."

Hull Daily Mail
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