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PNG aims to overtake Tonga and Samoa in ranking

The Papua New Guinea Kumuls are treating back-to-back Pacific Championship games against Fiji Bati as a two-Test series to climb above Tonga and Samoa in the International Rugby League World Rankings.

PNG and Bati will play in consecutive weeks after both teams beat the Cook Islands to secure their places in the Pacific Bowl final ahead of Sunday’s final round of the tournament in Port Moresby.

Kumuls coach Justin Holbrook insisted his side’s approach to Sunday’s Test wouldn’t change.

“It is a tricky one because we do know that we’re going to play again the week after but, for myself and for our team, we’re just going to treat it as a two-Test series,” Holbrook told NRL.com.

“We’re playing at home, and we have a big fan base here that we don’t want to disappoint, so while we know the week after is much more important, and it is tricky when you know you’re playing them twice, the best way to approach it is as a two-Test series.”

“Obviously, the second Test is much more important because that will be a final but for us, we want to enjoy playing well and work hard so we’re going to treat both games the same.”

After beating the Cook Islands Aitu 46-10 two weeks ago, the Bati are hoping that successive wins against Fiji will enable them to rise from the sixth spot on the World Rankings, particularly if fifth-placed Tonga lose their remaining two Tests against England.

“All we can do is play well and win games and then that’ll hopefully shift in our favour.”

“You can’t control the other games with the other nations, we can only control ourselves, so if we can put in two good performances over the next couple of weeks, whoever is in charge of that can hopefully shuffle us up a bit.”

The Kumuls have been bolstered by the arrival of England-based stars Rhyse Martin, Edwin Ipape, Wellington Albert and Keven Appo, who will all play against the Bati on Sunday.

Meanwhile Holbrook has stuck with five-eighth Kyle Laybutt as captain ahead of Martin, who held the job at last year’s World Cup.

Laybutt captained the PNG Prime Minister’s XIII against Australia last month and again led the team in Martin’s absence against the Cook Islands.

PNG will take on the Fiji Bati at 5pm at Santos National Football Stadium on Sunday.

Romeka Romena
Romeka Romena
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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