Sport: Rugby League World Cup organisers back PNG to deliver

11:18 am on 21 July 2016

Rugby League World Cup organisers are confident Papua New Guinea will be an excellent host during next year's tournament.

The draw was revealed this week with PNG to host the Kumuls three group matches against the United States and two European qualifiers in Port Moresby.

PNG Kumuls captains David Mead.

PNG Kumuls captain David Mead. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

World Cup CEO Michael Brown said officials were confident the country would be ready for such a big event.

"We're thrilled that, as part of the Pacific Program, we're able to reach out and with great support from the Papua New Guinean government and encouragement from Australia and New Zealand to share the spoils of such a great event with our Pacific neighbours and I'm just indebted to the Australian Rugby League Commission and New Zealand Rugby League for encouraging (PNG) to be involved and we welcome them into rugby league and they're a very essential part - as are all of the Pacific nations - in fostering the development of the game of rugby league, he said.

"I've been over there three or four times and it's a great place. Obviously it has challenges from time to time but in terms of their passion for rugby league it's second to none and it's their national sport so you can imagine the enthusiasm they have when their teams run out for those three games."

Pacific countries have regularly bemoaned international eligibility rules which make it difficult to compete with the elite nations like Australia, New Zealand and England.

The Rugby League World Cup.

The Rugby League World Cup. Photo: Rugby League World Cup 2017

Mr Brown was confident the World Cup would be more than just a two or three horse race.

"I think they're getting better all the time and you've got to remember 54 percent of people playing in the NRL are of Pacific or Indigenous background or Maori background so it is a great opportunity for young people. Of course the more they play in elite competitions - Samoa, PNG and other teams involved - the more opportunities they get to improve so I think you'll see really hard matches as part of this event and I know Steve Kearney was saying that the challenge for them is don't worry about the final, let's focus on our first game because we've got to play Samoa, that will be tough enough," he said.

"The best players want to play and it's up to the international body to sort out the qualification and eligibility criteria but everything I'm seeing from New Zealand Rugby League, from Australia and Papua New Guinea, as the three host countries, is nothing but passion and of course the opportunity to come from USA, France, Scotland, England will be the opportunity of a lifetime to play in what is rugby league's premier event."

The three European qualifiers, including two which will play in Port Moresby, will be determined at a qualifying tournament in October and November, featuring Wales, Ireland, Russia, Serbia, Italy and Spain.

The draw for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

The draw for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Photo: Rugby League World Cup 2017