World Cup Preview: Papua New Guinea v France

Papua New Guinea, the only country in the world that has rugby league as its national sport, take on France at Craven Park on Sunday.

For two of their squad, it will be a first outing at their new home, with Neville Costigan and Enoch Maki named in Adrian Lam’s 19-man squad, although a third Rovers signing Francis Paniu didn’t make the match day cut.

Costigan said: “Our target for the tournament is to make the semi-finals.

“It is a first World Cup for some of the squad, and they are all locals from PNG. A lot of them are 18, 19 and 20-year-old, so they all have a lot to learn. 

“Definitely it is not just about this World Cup, but future ones too.

“We want the players to learn from their experience, starting against France, and then, for each World Cup after, to take the team one step further.”

The two sides last met in 2007, with France coming out on top twice – winning 38-26 in Avignon, and then 22-16 in Bordeaux.

They also played each other at the 2000 World Cup, when Adrian Lam, now coach of the PNG side, captained them to a 23-20 victory over the French.

France enter this World Cup featuring a squad dominated by Catalan Dragons, who have had a further five years in Super League since the last tournament.

They suffered a shock 22-18 defeat at the hands of USA in Toulouse last week, but benefit from playing their other two group matches on home soil. They host New Zealand in Avignon next Friday, and Samoa in Perpignan on November 11.

All but five of Richard Agar’s 19-man squad come from the Dragons, with North Queensland full-back Clint Greenshields making a return to the nation he qualified for during a successful spell playing for Catalan.

Last year, France recorded wins over Wales before losing 44-6 to England in the International Series final.

Verdict: Group B would appear tough to call, getting off to a winning start is vital for both – France by 6.

France squad: Jean-Philippe Baile (Catalan), William Barthau (Catalan), Andrew Bentley (Toulouse), Kane Bentley (Toulouse), Thomas Bosc (Catalan), Rémi Casty (Catalan), Vincent Duport (Catalan), Olivier Elima (Catalan), Morgan Escare (Catalan), Theo Fages (Salford), Jamal Fakir (Catalan), Benjamin Garcia (Catalan), Clint Greenshields (North Queensland), Kevin Larroyer (Catalan), Gregory Mounis (Catalan), Eloi Pelissier (Catalan), Sébastien Raguin (St Esteve), Mickael Simon (Catalan), Frédéric Vaccari (Catalan).

Papua New Guinea squad: Josiah Abavu (Port Moresby Vipers), Paul Aiton (Wakefield), Dion Aiye (Rabaul Gurias), Wellington Albert (Lae Bombers), Ase Boas (Rabaul Gurias), Jason Chan (Huddersfield), Neville Costigan (Newcastle), Isreal Eliab (Port Moresby Vipers), Richard Kambo (Port Moresby Vipers), Enoch Maki (Port Moresby Vipers), Larsen Marabe (Port Moresby Vipers), Bosam Nene McDonald (Sydney), David Mead (Gold Coast), Mark Mexico (Rabaul Gurias), Jessie Joe Nandye (Whitehaven), Jason Tali (Mount Hagen), Ray Thompson (North Queensland), Charlie Wabo (Port Moresby Vipers), Menzie Yere (Sheffield)

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