16 Oct 2022
What are the teams for Papua New Guinea v Tonga men at the Rugby League World Cup?
How will Papua New Guinea and Tonga line up for their opener at the Rugby League World Cup?
By Paul Eddison
Papua New Guinea will take on Tonga in their first match of the Rugby League World Cup in the most open of all the groups.
With Wales and the Cook Islands rounding out Group D, this game marks an early opportunity for the teams to set down a marker in the race for the knock-out stages, with Tonga looking to build on their semi-final run in 2017.
This time around, they will not be a surprise package, instead they look like genuine contenders, coached once again by Kristian Woolf, fresh from his third successive Super League Grand Final win with St Helens.
Even without the suspended Jason Taumalolo for the opener, they are brimming with talent, David Fifita looking particularly impressive in a thumping warm-up victory over France.
But PNG have plenty of talent of their own, not least South Sydney Rabbitohs try-scoring sensation Alex Johnston.
Papua New Guinea: 8 Wellington Albert, 13 Jacob Alick, 18 Keven Apo, 23 Watson Boas, 5 Xavier Coates, 9 Edwin Ipape, 1 Alex Johnston, 7 Lachlan Lam, 6 Kyle Laybutt, 3 Nene MacDonald, 12 Rhyse Martin (captain), 10 Sylvester Namo, 4 Justin Olam, 11 Nixon Putt, 15 Daniel Russell, 20 Rodrick Tai, 21 Sherwin Tanabi, 17 Emmanuel Waine, 16 McKenzie Yei
Tonga: 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Siosifa Talakai, 4 Will Penisini, 5 Sione Katoa, 6 Talatau Amone, 7 Tui Lolohea, 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Siosiua Taukeiaho (captain), 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Keaon Koloamatangi, 14 Soni Luke, 15 Haumole Olakau’atu, 16 Tevita Tatola, 17 Moeaki Fotuaika, 18 David Fifita, 19 Mosese Suli, 20 Tolutau Koula, 21 Ben Murdoch-Masila, 24 Isaiya Katoa
While Tonga have the recent pedigree at World Cup level, it is Papua New Guinea who dominate the head-to-head match-ups, having won six and drawn one of their seven meetings. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the most recent of those came back in 2014, with the last time they faced off in the World Cup coming all the way back in 2000.
Papua New Guinea is the only country in the world that claims rugby league as its national sport.
READ MORE: Six players to watch at the Rugby League World Cup
Papua New Guinea record
With seven wins from 31 matches, Papua New Guinea have the lowest win rate (23%) of any team to have played at least 10 matches at the Rugby League World Cup.
Tonga have won six of their last seven games at the Rugby League World Cup, with the only defeat their 20-18 loss in the semi-final to England five years ago.
Players to watch
- It is hard to look past Papua New Guinea’s Alex Johnstone, who has racked up an incredible 166 tries in 191 appearances for South Sydney Rabbitohs including 30 in 25 appearances in 2022.
- Gold Coast Titans back-rower David Fifita is expected to make a big impact at this World Cup, and he certainly warmed up in style with a hat-trick for Tonga against France.
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets