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PNG must be embraced as the emerging force

Sports

By JAMIE PEACOCK
IT was fantastic seeing a sell-out crowd watch them beat Wales in their World Cup opener last weekend.
They play Ireland on Sunday in what could be the game of the World Cup so far.
There were some amazing World Cup scenes in Papua New Guinea last weekend — now we need to make sure Great Britain visit them on the 2019 tour.
PNG is the only place in the world where rugby league is the number one sport and it was fantastic seeing a sell-out crowd watch them beat Wales.
The game itself was brutal — it was like 17 Welsh players being taken to the slaughterhouse.
In the stands you could see the pride and excitement in supporters and how much the game meant to them.
The plan is for Great Britain to return to touring in two years’ time, and that should start with a visit to Port Moresby.
It’s a completely unique place in rugby league terms, the people are so passionate about the sport.
There are plans for the country to have a team in Australia’s NRL, and this year we saw PNG Hunters win the Queensland Cup, which is a very strong competition.
They are going from strength to strength and the stadium is a fantastic facility to stage tests now.
Any Great Britain player that I speak to who visited Papua New Guinea says it’s up there with the best experiences they’ve had playing for their country.
It’s just so different to England — or anywhere else for that matter.
The Pacific nations, including Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, among rugby league’s real strengths at the moment and we need to make the most of that.
The World Cup should help to keep strengthening these island nations and we need to make sure that they have regular matches to look forward to once the competition has finished.
Great Britain playing PNG in 2019 can be part of that.
The World Cup so far has been outstanding.
In rugby league sometimes we’re a bit blind to the fact that people want to see international rugby,that they want to see these teams go up against each other.
The more we can do that the better it will be for us as a sport.
The TV figures in Australia have been excellent which shows there’s an appetite for it.
In eight years’ time we’re taking the World Cup to America and that is a great opportunity for the sport as a whole — we just need to keep growing the international game between now and them.
Meanwhile in the England camp I’ve been forced into an unexpected role as team manager.
At times we want to train 13 against 13, which has meant me heading out onto the field to make up the numbers along with coaches Denis Betts and Paul Wellens.
I’ve asked Wayne Bennett privately if I can get my 50th cap against France this week — but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
– The Mirror
•  Jamie Peacock played for the Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls in the Super League and captained both Great Britain and England.

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