Sport: Final chance for players to impress ahead of Rugby League World Cup
Final chance for players to impress ahead of Rugby League World Cup.
This weekend shapes as a final chance for many Pacific players to force their way into contention for the Rugby League World Cup.
Fiji named the bulk of their squad last week while the Cook Islands will be releasing their final list in the next 24 hours.
And as, Vinnie Wylie reports, players in Papua New Guinea and Samoa have one last opportunity to impress.
Papua New Guinea coaches Adrian Lam and Mal Meninga will announce their 24-man World Cup squad next week, following Sunday's Prime Minister's XIII match in Kokopo. Sydney Roosters back Nene McDonald and Penrith hooker James Segeyaro will take part in the match, with local players making up the bulk of the squad. Fellow NRL players Ray Thompson and David Mead are unavailable through injury but will be in attendance. The Interim CEO of the Papua New Guinea Rugby League Federation, Brad Tassell, says there is plenty of talent on the domestic scene that is more than capable of footing in at the World Cup.
BRAD TASSELL: There's a lot of spots still open right across the paddock and there's a lot of players that are pushing for those spots, so the depth I would say in Papua New Guinea Rugby League right now is probably the best that it's been for the last 10, 15 years. Some of the players that are up here - because they're young, they've got the right attitude, they've been taught the right things - we believe that they wouldn't look out of place in a Queensland Cup or an NRL programme overseas. I think a lot of people will be surprised by the talent and just how well-prepared the Team Kumul players will be and the squad for the World Cup.
The Samoa Residents team are also in action on Sunday, in the first of two matches against the Australian Affiliated States. There are five places in the Toa Samoa World Cup squad being left open for local players and Residents coach Ponifasio Vasa says the games are a final chance to press their claims.
PONIFASIO VASA: This is a final opportunity for these locals to earn a spot in the World Cup. There are a certain amount of spots available for the locals but they have to prove that they deserve to earn those spots, in terms of standard and qualities that we need for the World Cup squad. We also have got five players with Country this year - they're all back to the squad and three amateur players from New Zealand. They're all part of the local ones. [I'm] really looking forward to get them on the field and showcase what they've got.
The Tongan team don't have any warm-up or trial games before the World Cup kicks off next month but an extended squad did have its first training session together on Wednesday at Penrith. The head coach Charles Tonga has whittled his list down to 33 players, with a few more to be added once teams are eliminated from their respective finals series. He says it was important to get everyone thinking on the same page.
CHARLES TONGA: We just wanted to see where the boys were. We just spoke about how it's not long to go and how important it is. Our preparation has already started and we're only four weeks away, but for us I just spoke to the boys about how important it is. The World Cup doesn't start in four weeks time, it started a long time ago.
The final squads for the World Cup must be submitted after next weekend's NRL and Super League Grand Finals.
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