25 Oct 2013

Sport: Pacific teams ready for Rugby League World Cup kickoff

5:41 pm on 25 October 2013

The waiting is almost over for rugby league fans with the World Cup kicking off in Britain this weekend.

Five Pacific teams are among the 14 countries vying for the title and, as Vinnie Wylie reports, they're all eager to get underway.

Papua New Guinea open their World Cup campaign against France in Hull on Monday morning.

Two thirds of the squad are based in PNG and have spent the past five months attending regular high performance camps.

Kumuls coach Adrian Lam was pleased with his side's effort in their warm-up victory over Scotland last weekend but admits they've been done no favours. He spoke to Vinnie Wylie.

"ADRIAN LAM: Sometimes it can favour the team that's under pressure. We've just got to focus on ourselves and prepare this week. We're not worried about our opposition, to be honest, regardless of how they performed on the weekend. We know we've got a bit of work to do ourselves and we'll just be focusing on that."

Group B rivals Samoa could lay a strong claim to having the toughest start at the World Cup, with a match against the reigning world champions New Zealand. The Toa were thrashed 52-16 by the England Knights in their only warm-up game and have also had to deal with the late withdrawal of former captain Roy Asotasi. Centre Junior Sau is one of five ex-Kiwis in the Toa squad and expects their opponents to be on top form.

JUNIOR SAU: Obviously they're a world-class team, they've got a lot of superstars in that team, but we're just focusing on ourselves and doing the best as individuals for Samoa. We're not looking too far ahead. We'll just concentrate on the Kiwis this week and basically go from there. I can't say we're going to make the semis or whatever. We'll just take it game by game.

Fiji are in the so-called 'group of death' alongside hosts England and tournament favourites Australia, but have a less daunting opening match against Ireland on Tuesday morning. The Tonga captain Brent Kite says they will be taking a typically physical approach into their Group C opener against Scotland on Wednesday. The Mate Ma'a opted against playing a pre-tournament hit-out, instead opting to visit their fans back in the Kingdom and New Zealand, an experience Kite says proved valuable.

BRENT KITE: Part of it was giving back to Tonga and seeing the people we're representing and seeing the place we're representing . But on the flip side we definitely took something from our experience. Definitely deeply touching the amount of support we had and the genuine expectation and faith they had in us doing well. So, like I said, that's something we'll be taking away, and hopefully that's added to our preparation rather than hindered it.

Meanwhile the Cook Islands will be the final Pacific team to take the field when they run out against the United States on Thursday. The tournament officially gets underway this Sunday morning with a double header at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.