Palais aim to create history


THE Papua New Guinea Palais, led by skipper Kymlie Rapilla, departed yesterday for the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco, the final rugby sevens qualifying tournament for this year’s Tokyo Olympics.A milestone for PNG Rugby Union (PNGRU) and PNG sports as a whole, the Palais campaign is the first for a team sport in the country to advance to the Olympic qualifiers compared with the past where only individual athletes reached that stage.Rapilla told The National yesterday at the Jackson International Airport prior to departing that the team were proud of how far they had come and were ready to fly the PNG flag in Monaco.“It’s the first time a team sport is attending an Olympic qualifier,” she said. “Normally, it has always been individual sports that have been participating.“If we do (qualify for the Olympics), it’s going to be huge for PNG sports.“Not only is it a team sport but the fact that it’s the first female sport that is taking part (in an Olympic qualifier).“We are proud of that and the girls are just excited, they can’t wait to fly our flag high.”Rapilla said since last year, their preparations had been affected by Covid-19 restrictionson sports which had seen the team struggle to keep fit and stay focused.“We had been training until the lockdown (was imposed), causing all venues to be shut down. “We weren’t able to use the fields.“That disrupted our training and it was really tough, most of the girls had access to the training field, some didn’t but that didn’t stop us from training.“Our coach (Paul Tietjens) always sent training programmes, so it was our responsibility to train.“Just recently, the venues re-opened. “So we’ve been back in full swing as a team and the girls are really pumped to actually go back and play on the international stage.“It has been a while since we last played so the girls are really excited but all we needed is match fitness but because of Covid-19, we didn’t have any match fitness.“But we know that when we go there, our first match is against Tunisia so we will do all we can to get that first game out of the way.“We did play against them in the past but that was back in 2013 at the Hong Kong Sevens, they’re also a new team but we don’t want to underestimate any of these teams that are playing.“Especially the teams in our pool, we know that all the teams have been training just as much as we have, so we are not going to take any of them lightly.“Our first game is against Tunisia then we have Jamaica and then Kazakhstan on day two of our pool games, we’ve also played them and they’re big girls.“I think in our pool, we’re the smallest in size so we’re not underestimating any of those teams, we’re just going to go and take it one game at a time.”