Abavu winging it

Normal, Sports

The National, Wednesday October 23rd, 2013

 JOSIAH Abavu has taken to the wing like a duck to water.

The Port Moresby Vipers fullback, who has worn the No.1 jersey in the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister’s XIII and the PNG Residents sides over the past two years says his positional switch for the World Cup has so far been smooth.

Abavu’s experience is just one of several in the Kumuls team with some players being required to slot into unfamiliar roles.

Jesse Joe Nandye, Richard Kambo and Dion Aiye – all backs – have  filled in admirably in the pack  while 19-year-old Wellington Albert, normally a wing/centre for the Lae Tigers, has acquitted himself well in the backrow.

“I think I’ve only ever played two times on the wing before the Scotland match. Those two games were for the Vipers (2009) when I first came into the team,” Abavu said.

The 26-year-old impressed against the Scots, setting up a try for Nene McDonald and scoring one himself off an audacious chip and chase in the Kumuls 38-20 win last Saturday.

“I’m comfortable on the wing. I scored a late try and set one up earlier on so the confidence is building.”

Abavu, who is arguably the best fullback in PNG said he was impressed with Kumul No.1 David Mead and second-rower Jason Chan.

“I thought David (Mead) was our best back in the warm-up game. He showed us how it’s done. Jason Chan was also strong, just tackling and running hard all game,” Abavu said of the teammates he thought had particularly strong games. 

The Koiari, Central, native was under no illusions about his place in the team to face France at Craven Park, Hull,  on Sunday.

“There’s competition for places and we’re all just waiting for the announcement on Friday.

“I guess Nene (Mcdonald) and Welington (Albert) are the other two wingers so it will be between us.” 

Jason Tali, a rugged ball carrier, is the only other player in the squad with experience on the wings but he is more likely to be a centre candidate. 

Abavu, who is one of 15 World Cup debutants in the squad, said the players had settled in despite the cold.

Team general manager Matthew Natusch said the team had established a routine and were building up to Sunday’s opening clash of Group B. New Zealand play Samoa at Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington later on Sunday.

“We’ve had fitness, conditioning and treatment sessions along with weight sessions over the last two days. The players are handling the conditions well even though it is cold and wet most of the time. 

“The field sessions have been challenging but everything has been sweet. The injury front is clear. 

“The only issues are minor soft tissue concerns but other than that it’s all good,” Natusch said yesterday from Hull.

The players who have received some treatment for injuries are  Richard Kambo (shoulder), Ase Boas (knee) and Israel Eliab (lower leg).

“Richard Kambo, Ase Boas and Israel Eliab are nursing some minor stuff (injuries)”. 

“They’ve been training but haven’t taken part in the full contact sessions yet. 

“But they are fit to play. If the France game was tomorrow they’d all be ready to play.”