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Rugby League World Cup preview: PNG still the people’s team

PNG vs Lions : Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan
The Papua New Guinea Kumuls will be representing a nation that is absolutely mad about rugby league.
It is the national sport of Papua New Guinea and has in some ways become a replacement for tribal warfare.
The Adrian Lam-coached Kumuls will be aiming to produce their best ever effort at the 2013 World Cup.
Papua New Guinea Kumuls
RLIF World Ranking: 6
Best Result: Quarter Finalists (2000)
2008 Finish: sixth
2013 RLWC Odds: $251
Rugby league began its journey in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s when it was brought across by Australian miners and servicemen.
In 1949 the governing body was developed and the sport quickly became part of the national psyche.
The Kumuls joined the RLIF in the 1970s and the 1988 World Cup was the first that they participated in.
Due to poor infrastructure within the country and regular violence at games, rugby league has been hampered in Papua New Guinea at international level with very few games scheduled against the larger nations.
An annual fixture against the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII is the biggest game of the year for the locals and is played in front of a sell-out crowd each time.
The Australian State of Origin matches are the most watched sporting events in Papua New Guinea every year and the players that take part are well known throughout the country.
The most idolised players in Papua New Guinea this year however will no doubt be the 17 men that take the field for the Kumuls at the 2013 World Cup.
The Kumuls best performance in a RLWC was in 2000. The Papua New Guinea side went through their pool undefeated before going down to Wales 22-8 in the knockout stages.
That Quarter Final match against the Welsh was watched by an estimated two million Papua New Guineans in the early hours of the morning local time.
Although they were defeated, the Kumuls returned home to a jam packed Port Moresby airport which had thousands of fans waiting not only inside but also outside the precinct.
In the 2008 World Cup, Papua New Guinea were never a chance of progressing far in the tournament having been drawn in the pool of death with Australia, England and New Zealand.
The 2013 squad will be looking to make amends and re-create the scenes of 2000 by doing their league-loving nation proud.
Team Line Up (likely)
1. David Mead
2. Josiah Abavu
3. Menzie Yere
4. Jessie Joe Nandye
5. Bosam McDonald
6. Israel Eliab
7. Ray Thompson
8. Jason Chan
9. Charlie Wabo
10. Enoch Maki
11. Neville Costigan (c)
12. Larson Marabe
13. Paul Aiton
14. Richard Kambo
15. Sebastian Pandia
16. Mark Mexico
17. Dion Aiye
Squad Members: Wellington Albert, Ase Boas, Roger Laka, Francis Paniu, Jason Tali, Joe Bruno
The Kumuls will be led by NRL veteran Neville Costigan who has the honour of leading the national side for the first time.
Papua New Guinea has a number of other NRL experienced players in their ranks with David Mead, Ray Thompson and Paul Aiton also selected.
The team will no doubt put their bodies on the line during the series and none more so than the popular Sheffield Eagles centre – Menzie Yere.
One to Watch
He is known as ‘The Jukebox’ for putting on the hits and has become a crowd favourite for Sheffield in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Menzie uses every muscle in his body with or without the Steeden in hand.
Yere is almost impossible to stop close to the line being such a devastating runner with the ball however opposition centres will be more worried when in possession, just in case the Jukebox is around.

Group B Fixtures and Opponents
Vs France @ Craven Park, Hull  Kick Off – Mon 28th Oct 3am AEDT
Vs Samoa @ Craven Park, Hull  Kick Off – Tues fifth Nov 7am AEDT
Vs New Zealand @ Headingley Stadium, Leeds Kick Off – Sat ninth Nov 7am AEDT
Key Match
The Papua New Guinea supporters that travel to the UK for the 2013 RLWC will be setting up camp in Hull and striving to make Craven Park a home away from home.
With the Kumuls scheduled to play their first two games at the venue, a win against either France or Samoa may be enough to propel the side into the Quarter Finals of the tournament.
The side have a good record against the Samoan side however they will be facing much stronger opposition in 2013.
RLWC 2013 Prospects
Luckily Papua New Guinea is not facing the same prospect as they did in 2008 where they would have required a miracle just to win a game.
Adrian Lam will fancy his team’s chances of making it through to the knock out stages of this tournament however the late withdrawal of their best player James Segeyaro will hurt the Kumuls chances of progressing.
Regardless of whether the Papua New Guinea side can equal or better their previous best performance at a World Cup, they will still be adored by their passionate fans back home who will continue to cheer on the Kumuls no matter the result.

Source: The Roar 
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