Papua New Guinea look to win over Great Britain for inspiration

Tom Burgess for Great Britain against Papua New Guinea
Picture by SpiderTekPNG/Duco/

It’s nearly three years since Papua New Guinea caused a major upset by beating Great Britain.

That was part of the ill-fated return of the Lions, who lost all four games on their tour Down Under.

While Tonga’s successes over Great Britain and Australia dominated the headlines, Papua New Guinea’s win in Port Moresby was significant.

MORE: Great Britain stunned by Papua New Guinea

The Kumuls will draw inspiration from that win when they take on England in the World Cup quarter-finals, albeit they know the surroundings in Wigan will be much different.

Coach Stanley Tepend: “It does give us confidence. We will probably watch that game and reflect on that win. But it’s a different environment here. We’ll take small points from that game. A few of the boys played in that game, so they know what it feels like to get that win.

“They’ll have the home advantage but we’ll just prepare ourselves as best as we can and see where it goes from there.

“Rhyse is going to be very important. He has been great over the last few weeks we’ve been here. He’s a great leader.

“We’ve had our discussions on what we want to do and what we want to achieve. Whatever happens outside of that is out of our control. It is a bonus getting in to the quarters, but I think we’ve got a really good team. We respect that England is a really strong side, so we just worry about ourselves.”

Wins over Cook Islands and Wales got Papua New Guinea out of the tricky group D, but they also pushed the much-fancied Tonga close in the opener.

They won all three of their group games in 2017 before losing 36-6 to England in the quarter-finals.

Familiar faces

One of the criticisms of the Great Britain tour was the lack of representation from the other home nations.

Coach Wayne Bennett selected a squad almost totally made up of players from the England squad he was then coach of, with Scotland’s Lachlan Coote the only exception.

Australian-born Jackson Hastings and Blake Austin also featured, neither of whom appear to have been in the reckoning in the Shaun Wane era.

There are only five players who featured in that match for Great Britain who are in the England 19-man squad for this weekend.

They are Chris Hill, Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Elliot Whitehead and George Williams.

Luke Thompson also featured in 2019, though he isn’t in Wane’s squad for this match.

But for injuries, Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley, Jake Connor and Josh Hodgson would likely have featured at this World Cup, while Jermaine McGillvary has since retired from international rugby league. James Graham has hung up his boots altogether.

Gareth Widdop and Joe Philbin were the other two players in the Great Britain line-up that day.

There are nine survivors from the Papua New Guinea team in 2019, including Alex Johnston, Justin Olam and Rhyse Martin.

Nine players across both squads played in the 2017 quarter-final.

The two sides meet at the DW Stadium on Saturday (2.30pm) for a place in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup semi-finals.

PREVIEW: England v Papua New Guinea: Team news, how to watch on TV & predictions

About James Gordon 7243 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

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