Sport: Rugby League World Cup organisers back PNG to deliver
Papua New Guinea discover which teams will visit Port Moresby during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
The Chief Executive of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup says Papua New Guinea is an essential part of the international game and is confident they will be an excellent host during next year's tournament.
The tournament draw was revealed this week with Papua New Guinea to host matches against the United States and two European qualifiers in Port Moresby.
World Cup CEO Michael Brown talked to Vinnie Wylie about the event and the influence of Pacific nations on the international game.
MICHAEL BROWN: Well we're thrilled that, as part of the Pacific Programme, we're able to reach out and with great support from the Papua New Guinean government and encouragement from Australia and New Zealand to share the spoils of such a great event with our Pacific neighbours and I'm just indebted to the Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League for encouraging (PNG) to be involved and we welcome them into rugby league and they're a very essential part - as are all of the Pacific nations - in fostering the development of the game of rugby league.
VINNIE WYLIE: Have you had a chance to go over there and check out the venues?
MB: I have, I've been over there three or four times and it's a great place. Obviously it has challenges from time to time but in terms of their passion for rugby league it's second to none and it's their national sport so you can imagine the enthusiasm they have when their teams run out for those three games.
VW: Pacific islands rugby league gets a lot of spotlight especially during that May test window and as the World Cups come around about how competitive those teams are. We've seen teams make the semi finals at the last World Cup and I think at the one before that Fiji did as well so where do you think about where these teams like Fiji, Samoa, Tonga etc stand currently in terms of competitiveness on that international stage?
MB: I think they're getting better all the time and you've got to remember 54 percent of people playing in the NRL are of Pacific or indigenous background or Maori background so it is a great opportunity for young people. Of course the more they play in elite competitions - Samoa, PNG and other teams involved - the more opportunities they get to improve so I think you'll see really hard matches as part of this event and I know Steve Kearney was saying that the challenge for them is don't worry about the final, let's focus on our first game because we've got to play Samoa, that will be tough enough.
VW: As the CEO of the Rugby League World Cup you obviously want the most competitive tournament with the best players possible. That's also a debate that comes up: are the best players going to be there, all of them, are some of them going to commit to Australia and New Zealand and not make it and the eligibility challenges that rugby league has - are you concerned at all that there may be some top players that won't be at this World Cup next year?
MB: I'm convinced in what I'm hearing from the players and what I'm hearing from Cam Smith today and all the players - the best players want to play and it's up to the international body to sort out the qualification and eligibility criteria but everything I'm seeing from New Zealand Rugby League, from Australia and Papua New Guinea, as the three host countries, is nothing but passion and of course the opportunity to come from USA, France, Scotland, England will be the opportunity of a lifetime to play in what is rugby league's premier event.
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