Great Britain Lions taking nothing for granted against Papua New Guinea

A DISAPPOINTING tour could become a disastrous one if Great Britain slip up against Papua New Guinea this weekend - and front-rower Tom Burgess says the Lions know they are in for a battle.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 12:18 pm
New Zealand's Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is tackled with Tom Burgess coming in from the side in Christchurch on Saturday. Picture: Steve McArthur / www.photosport.nz /SWpix.com

Saturday’s game in Port Moresby will close a tour which has seen the Lions lose to a Tonga Invitational XIII and twice against New Zealand, scoring only three tries and 22 points in the process.

Papua New Guinea, who are captained by Leeds Rhinos forward Rhyse Martin, were pipped 22-20 by Fiji in Christchurch four days ago, but Burgess reckons they will be tougher opposition on home turf.

Sapping heat and a passionate local crowd will make it difficult for the wounded Lions and Burgess - who was born in Dewsbury and plays for South Sydney Rabbitohs - warned: “We know if we are not on our game this weekend, if we clock off a bit too early, we can get beat.”

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Tom Burgess gets a warm welcome on arrival in Papua New Guinea. Picture Stephen Vele/SpidertekPNG

He said: “They have got a lot of quality players in their side.

“I know one of them very well - Alex Johnston, who plays with me at Souths.

“He is a top-quality player so we have got to be on our game.

“We are not taking it lightly at all. They are very strong, very fast and they are not going to take a backwards step.

LEADING THREAT: Leeds Rhinos' Rhyse Martin is captain of Papua New Guinea. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“That is what we have got to expect from the Kumuls. We have got two [training] sessions to get it right.

“There’s been no lack of effort in the games, everyone’s been playing hard, but we probably just need to be a bit smarter and, hopefully, we can get the win.”

Papua New Guinea is the only country where rugby league is the national sport.

England’s women, who will play in a curtain-raiser on Saturday, attracted a 7,000 crowd to their first Test win over PNG Orchids last week and the Lions received an enthusiastic reception when they touched down in Port Moresby yesterday.

“It is my first time here,” Burgess said. “We’ve not seen too much of it [PNG] so far, but we had a really warm welcome. It was great to see all the smiling faces and everyone’s happy to see you. We’re looking forward to getting out and about.”

Lions assistant-coach Ian Watson admitted they are desperate not to travel home without a victory.

“We need to get a win,” he stressed.

“We felt we improved in the first game against New Zealand, from the Tonga game, but last week we probably took a bit of a step back and we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to.

“We didn’t put our game plan into action.

“We are trying to fix a few things up this week in training and take that forward into the game come Saturday.

“It is important we fix up what we did last week. I think we need to focus on ourselves, not be looking at Papua New Guinea just yet.

“We need to make sure we are right going into the game.”

But Watson is also wary of what the Kumuls will throw at Great Britain.

“Papua New Guinea played really well against Fiji, they played with a lot of passion and worked hard for each other,” he noted.

“We will have to make sure we are at our best, physically and mentally.

“They will test us, the heat will test us.

“It is something different from what we have been used to.

“Papua New Guinea have some really good players in there who we need to be aware of and we are looking forward to the challenge that brings.”