Papua New Guinea ace Lachlan Lam says the Kumuls will relish having the underdogs tag going into the World Cup, insisting they can beat anyone on their day.
Stanley Tepend’s side are in a group with Tonga, Wales and the Cook Islands at this year’s tournament, which is hosted in England.
Papua New Guinea head into the World Cup on the back of an impressive 24-14 win over Fiji in June. The Kumuls will also face Australia’s Prime Minister’s XIII before they travel to England this autumn.
“PNG have always been a team that have been looked past pretty quickly,” Leigh half-back Lam told Love Rugby League. “Even this year in the Pacific Test against Fiji we were looked over pretty quickly.
“For the players who put on that jersey it means a lot more to them than a lot of people understand.
“We’re definitely capable of turning over teams that people wouldn’t expect us to.
“Last time we made the quarter-finals for the second time ever and we won all three of our pool games. This year we will be looking to go a little bit better than that.”
Being the son of a Kumuls legend
Lam was born and raised in Sydney but qualifies to play for the Kumuls through his father Adrian, who is rugby league royalty in Papua New Guinea.
Lachlan made his international debut for Papua New Guinea at the last World Cup in 2017, playing a starring role as they battered the USA 64-0 in Port Moresby.
“I remember warming up for the first game there and they weren’t sure whether we were going to beat any of the teams, let alone all three, we were underdogs,” Lam added.
“The crowd was absolutely packed. It was similar to how loud they are here, they sing here (in England) but they just scream over there.
“I remember I had to yell to someone a yard away because we couldn’t hear anything because of the crowd! We beat the USA in the last game so it was unbelievable.”
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The 24-year-old made his NRL debut two years later for Sydney Roosters. He played 31 games for Trent Robinson’s side before joining Leigh to link up with his dad Adrian, who is the head coach.
Lam says he feels honoured every time he gets to pull the Kumuls jersey on; and is looking forward to doing it again this autumn.
“When they picked the team in the 2017 World Cup I was a little bit nervous,” Lam said. “I wasn’t actually sure if I was going to play.
“My dad convinced me to go over there and said it would be the time of my life.
“I didn’t know anyone and they obviously speak their native language. So I thought I was going to be like a fish out of water but I ended up going and it was absolutely unreal.
“In total I spent seven weeks over there. We won all three of our pool games and I was lucky enough to play in the last one.
“I got a little taste of what it was like. I quickly learned the passion the fans have and the players have and what it means to the whole country as soon as there is a game on for PNG.”
Papua New Guinea begin their World Cup campaign with an all-Pacific clash against Tonga at St Helens on October 18.