The Great Britain Rugby League Lions conclude their tour of the southern hemisphere on Saturday morning when they go in search of an elusive win in their final outing for this year, against Papua New Guinea.
It was meant to be a memorable tour for Great Britain but it soon turned into a nightmare and if they lose this match it will result in a shambles. Papua New Guinea are rugby league mad and have a free shot at making themselves heroes here.
Papua New Guinea
Given the rivalries of the pacific nations and that part of the world, I’m not sure you could call last week’s clash with Fiji a warm up but the important point about it was that Papua New Guinea have had a run out prior to this match, and actually there is a case to be made that they could have beaten the Fijians in what was an entertaining and passionate contest over in New Zealand. They’ll need to raise their game here but that should come naturally.
PNG are not the best side going around. We saw that at the World Cup a couple of years ago but they will be passionate, committed and flamboyant and if they are given chances to get into the match and stay in it there is nothing stopping them from hanging around and making life tough for the tourists. There is a smattering of decent NRL talent and a couple of good Super League players in their ranks so they need to be respected.
There is a lot of pressure on Great Britain to get the job done here. To be fair there would have been anyway because they were always going to be warm favourites for this match, but they would not have been expecting to arrive in Papua New Guinea without a win to their name thus far. If they go home having now won a match at any stage it will look terrible and will do nothing for the future of the Lions brand.
Quite simply Great Britain have to find their attacking combinations here and they have to start delivering the goods. There hasn’t been too much wrong with their defending at any stage on the tour but to not reach double figures in any of the three matches is little short of pathetic. A loss here will have huge ramifications for a lot of people but they need to put that out of their minds and just get the job done, regardless of how pretty it may or may not be.
Super League followers will be used to seeing Catalans Dragons’ David Mead as well as Wellington Albert of the Leeds Rhinos while the South Sydney pair of Alex Johnston and Edene Gebbie are also in the squad and expected to start for the Kumuls.
Great Britain are expected to make changes for this match with Zak Hardaker and Joe Philbin both fit to return to the scene. Ash Handley was flown out to join the squad but he hasn’t been selected for the match.
This is must win for Great Britain. It really is as simple as that. For all the troubles they have had I expect them to win here as well. Papua New Guinea took on the England Knights recently and were beaten by four points so it will be a pretty damning indictment if Great Britain can’t cover eight points against them. England beat PNG by 30pts in the World Cup quarter final a couple of years ago which says what Britain should be doing to them.
I expect there to be a lot of pent up frustration in the England ranks and they have the chance to let it out here with a strong, physical and creative performance and salvage some pride. The Kumuls will have their moments but generally Britain have defended well on this tour. It is now time for their attacking play to come to the fore and if it does they should cover eight points.
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