A tough challenge for PNG residents Kumuls as they prepared to take on NRL's South Sydney Rabbittos




ADRIAN Lam’s PNG Residents XIII face a daunting task against the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Feb 9.
The match will be an indicator of how many overseas-based players will be needed in the  Kumuls’ overall make-up ahead of the Rugby League World Cup in October.
With selectors opting to give local players the first crack at securing spots in a likely 27-man squad for England, the match at Redfern, Sydney, looms as the first and perhaps only chance for PNG-based players to book their tickets to London in a little over nine months.
With Lam sounding a warning at the begining of the month, Residents XIII players are expected to be approaching peak fitness levels with playing groups in Port Moresby and Kokopo understood to have already started training.
In Kokopo, Digicel Cup premiers Agmark Gurias began pre-season training two weeks ago with Residents big guns Dion Aiye and Rodney Pora teaming up with Wartovo Puara Jr and Albert Patak.

In Port Moresby, Charlie Wabo (Mendi Muruks), Richard Kambo, Israel Eliab, Enoch Maki, Larsen Marabe and Josiah Abavu (Port Moresby Vipers) joined Vipers training sessions while in Goroka, Lahanis’ Glen Nami, Wesley Mohokule, Gonzella Urakusie and Thompson Teteh were expected to be in training.
Information on Lae-based Mark Mexico (Tigers) and Matthew Puke, Roy Kela (Muruks) as well as Mioks’ dynamic backrower David Loko and Kundiawa forward Essau Siune was not available but all were aware of the coaching staffs expectation.
Despite not having played together since September, the side will get an opportunity to work off the rust at the Cabramatta 9s tournament on Feb 2, a week after assembling on Jan 27.
But Redfern remains  the biggest test to tie up World Cup spots and Lam, who has previously stated that overseas-based players would be included, was likely to use the Feb 9 match against a fully-fledged NRL side as his benchmark.
The most troublesome facet in the Kumuls’ game has been in the organisation and playmaking department with five-eighth Aiye, utility Eliab and rake Wabo, the players to carry the burden of directing play.
They will do it against a Rabbitohs outfit that will not have super star Greg Inlgis, prolific try-scorer Nathan Merrit, Kiwi No. 9 Isaac Luke and towering English forward Sam Burgess, all of whom are expected to be involved in the NRL-Indigenous All Stars match on the same date.
Still, the probable Rabbitohs line-up is nothing to smirk at with the hulking  Burgess brothers Tom, George and Luke to see game time with new recruits Ben Te’o, Beau Champion, Jeff Lima and halves John Sutton and Adam Reynolds complementing veterans Roy Asotasi, Michael Croker and Matt King presenting a formidable challenge.
Meanwhile, as the Residents XIII prepare to take on Souths and two tentatively scheduled Instra Queensland Cup sides on a two-week tour, overseas players in the running to make the final squad, Paul Aiton, Jason Chan, Neville Costigan, David Mead, Joe Bond, Jessie Joe Parker, Makali Aizue, Ray Thompson and James Segeyaro will be watching the side with interest. The National
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