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PNG Kumuls beefed up for Pacific test

Staff Reporter 4/30/2015 | | | | |
KUMUL coach Mal Meninga has rolled out his heavy artillery naming a big backline for the test against Fiji at Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast tomorrow.
Josh Damen will take over the Kumuls fullback role while fellow debutant Matt Trnka has been slotted on the wing.
The 196cm tall Damen has been picked to compliment the size and speed stakes that the Kumuls are bringing to their showdown against the Bati in what the National Rugby League is calling the first test between the two countries.
Damen will have several big men to work with in the backline with Kato Ottio (193cm, 107kg) and Sydney Roosters back Nene McDonald (192cm, 105kg) the other giants in the three-quarters. Souths Logan winger Matt Trnka and Hunters centre Thompson Teteh completes the back five.
Kumul captain Israel Eliab retains his role at five-eighth but the most notable positional shift sees Ray Thompson staying at hooker, a role he plays at the North Queensland Cowboys and Noel Zeming to start at half-back.
Zeming’s selection in the halves reprises his role at his former club the Goroka Lahanis, although the Morobe man played mostly in the No.6 jersey. His goal-kicking (75 per cent strike rate) is another factor that would have earned him the nod in the pivotal role.
Eliab, Zeming and Thompson are expected to share the general kicking responsibilities.
In a pack featuring two sets of brothers for the first time in PNG rugby league history, Albert brothers Wellington and Stanton will play together for the first time starting in the front-row while Martin siblings Tyson and Ryhse have been named in the back-row.
Canberra Raiders prop Luke Page locks the scrum in a side that Meninga hopes can match the NRL-studded 17 the Bati have named.
On the bench, second-rower Brandy Peter has earned a position on the bench after an outstanding Q-Cup season so far. The Southern Highlander has been a rock on the left edge for Michael Marum.
Impact player Willie Minoga, nuggety lock Adam Korave and hooker Wartovo Puara Jr are the other reserves. Lawrence Tu’u is the 18th man.
The match is seen as an historic first meeting between the two Pacific but PNG has a history of playing a residential team from Fiji with an annual two-game series between the two nations started in 2008.
Fiji is yet to face PNG in a Test match with the sides not meeting during the Pacific Cup in 2009 nor they crossing paths at the last three World Cups.
The first fixture of Saturday’s Pacific Test double-header features a Fiji team very much on the rise after reaching the semi-finals in consecutive World Cups while PNG are looking to re-establish their credentials after going winless at the 2013 World Cup against France, Samoa and New Zealand.
The introduction of the Hunters into the Q-Cup has brought added stability to the national team, who recorded a 32-18 win over Tonga in a one-off Test at the end of last year, with nine members of the current Hunters squad selected this weekend. Kumuls: 1. Josh Damen 2. Nene McDonald  3. Thompson Teteh 4. Kato Ottio 5. Matt Trnka 6. Israel Eliab 7. Noel Zemming 8. Stanton Albert  9. Ray Thompson 10. Wellington Albert  11. Rhyse Martin 12. Tyson Martin 13. Luke Page; Reserves: 14. Wartovo Puara Jr 15. Willie Minoga 16. Brandy Peter 17. Adam Korave 18. Lawrence Tu’u (one to be omitted). The Nationa/ONE PNG

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