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PNG Pukpuks set for Oceania championships

PUKPUKS coach Sydney Wesley says the Oceania Rugby Cup which begins on Saturday is an opportunity for the team to win back some respect, confidence and trust.
Wesley, who was with his squad training at Bisini yesterday, said after losing the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions tournament to the Cook Islands in 2013, the Papua New Guinea Rugby Union was keen on winning the 2015 tournament.
“We lost the FORU Cup to the Cook Islands two years ago and we are here to restore some lost pride in the Pukpuks jersey as well as putting some confidence back in the team and players that we are good enough,” Wesley said.
The Cook Islands beat PNG 39-31 in the deciding match at the Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby and went on to play Fiji in a World Cup qualifying match for this year’s edition in England.
“Winning this tournament would be great to regain the sponsors’ trust as well.
“This team does not have any sponsors going into the tournament.
“We’re funded 100 per cent by the PNGRFU and I guess having success at the Oceania Rugby Cup will be good for us from a sponsor’s point of view.”
In recent years rugby sevens has received a lion’s share of the corporate kina with Puma Energy and South Pacific Brewery investing heavily in the abbreviated format. Puma Energy backed the sevens team with K500,000 in funding for its programmes and participation at preparatory tournaments, while the Palais (women) received substantial backing from sponsors as well.
The women’s side won a bronze medal at the recent Pacific Games beating New Caledonia, while the men’s side missed out on a bronze medal, losing to Tonga.
Wesley said as was normally the case, the Pukpuks would battle teams with bigger packs but said the team was hungry to perform and would handle the challenge from the Solomon Islands, who arrived yesterday, American Samoa and Tahiti.
The Solomon Islands and Tahiti played in the last FORU Cup and have experience.
“I’m confident that we’ll have a pretty good tournament.
“There a lot of young players here with a couple of them knocking on the selectors door for some time so now that they have their chance, I think they’ll do well.
“I know the teams coming here will have big forward packs but we have some big guys too.
“But we have to focus on ourselves and not worry about them.
“I think we have the advantage with speed and mobility across the park and we can get the wins.”
Wesley said the union was looking to build towards the World Cup qualifiers in 2017.
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