Ireland coach: ‘Our match against PNG Kumuls is like a grand final’
PORT MORESBY - Ireland's rugby league world cup pool game today against co-hosts Papua New Guinea will be their ‘grand final’ according to Irish coach Mark Aston.
Ireland beat Italy 36-12 in their first match, while Papua New Guinea were 50-6 winners over Wales.
Aston, who has worked with a number of PNG’s players at Sheffield, has stuck with the same side to face the Group C leaders in Port Moresby.
"We've got a plan and, if we execute it, then who knows?" he said.
"To get a look at them against Wales was great for us. We're not going to be shocked."
Aston wanted Ireland to be "the first [European] nation to win a game" - and their victory over Italy sets up the possibility of facing England in the knockout stage.
The winners of the group will progress to the quarter-finals, and with PNG expected to beat the USA in their final game, Aston expects this to be the decider.
"We talked about last week being like a semi-final, well this is our grand final," he said.
"If we are going to progress and get a chance of playing England in the quarter-finals, we've got to win."
The Wolfhounds reached the quarter-finals in 2000 and 2008 but did not win a match at the last world cup.
PNG hooker Paul Aiton says Ireland will be playing in front of a crowd that is "inspiring" the Kumuls.
"I've played in a lot of big games but nothing compares to this because of how much it means to the whole country," he said.
"Ireland looked really good. I know what they'll bring and they played really well in the heat in Cairns as well which will help them. It will be quite similar here."
Meanwhile, Ireland's Michael Russell has returned home following the death of his brother Liam.
Team manager Richard Egan said: "The thoughts of the squad and all involved in RLI are with Mikey, his parents, family and friends at this time.
"As a mark of respect, the team will wear black armbands in the game against Papua New Guinea and before the game the squad will share a moment together on the field."
Papua New Guinea: David Meade (capt), Justin Olam, Kato Ottio, Nene Macdonald, Garry Lo, Ase Boas, Stanton Baptiste, Luke Page, Rhyse Martin, Willie Minoga, Paul Aiton. Interchanges: James Segeyaro, Wellington Albert, Stargroth Amean, Enock Maki
Ireland: Scott Grix, Shannon McDonnell, Ed Chamberlain, Michael Morgan, Liam Kay, Api Pewharirangi, Liam Finn (capt), Brad Singleton, Michael McIllorum, Kyle Amor, Louie McCarthy-Scrasbrook, Oliver Roberts, George King. Interchanges: Tyrone McCarthy, James Hasson, Joe Philbin, Anthony Mullaly