PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND FRANCE square off in the opening Pool B clash of the World Cup.
Both have been stalwarts of international rugby league for many decades, the two teams who have typically been at the level below the big three but who have enjoyed a deep love of the game.
Both will consider anything less than a quarter final berth disappointing and with this the likely one winnable match for either team, both will be targeting this clash as the defining one of the 2013 campaign.
Papua New Guinea will be led by veteran hooker Paul Aiton while NRL players David Mead, Ray Thompson and Neville Costigan, along with Huddersfield prop Jason Chan will also be selected.
Sheffield centre Menzie Yere is another player to watch from the Kumuls, while Bosam Nene McDonald scored a double in their warm-up with Scotland.
Clint Greenshields will be the most well-known French player while prop Remi Casty has signed with the Sydney Roosters from 2014. Richard Agar’s other stars include star five-eighth Thomas Bosc and hooker Eloi Pelissier.
France and Papua New Guinea have met on 14 occasions with the French winning eight and the Kumuls four with two matches being drawn. The two teams last met in 2007 when France won both Tests of a two-Test series on home turf, winning 38-26 in Avignon and 22-16 at Bordeaux.
Prior to those clashes, the Kumuls won three of four, including a win in Paris in 2000. France have participated in every World Cup, reaching the final in 1954 and 1968. They have a 14-35-3 all-time record in the tournament. PNG have a 4-19-1 record from their five World Cup appearances.
Papua New Guinea opened their World Cup preparation with a 38-20 win over Scotland. The No.6 ranked country has a 5-9 international record since the last World Cup but they have not played a Test since 2010, when they were roundly thumped in three Four Nations matches.
Prior to that they defeated Tonga and the Cook Islands in the Pacific Cup. France were shocked by the United States in their warm-up, a 22-18 defeat. Prior to that, France had won four of their last five Tests, defeating Wales twice, Scotland and Ireland. Since the last World Cup, the No.4 nation has a 5-11 record.
Key halves Ray Thompson and Thomas Bosc should decide this game. Thompson spent plenty of time at hooker this year for North Queensland but is a talented halfback who will likely be charged with bringing order to the enthusiastic and energetic Kumuls outfit.
Bosc is a Super League veteran of 168 games for Catalans and 21 Tests, a talented and professional half who will be the playmaking key for Les Chanticleers.
Papua New Guinea will open this match like a spray of bullets out of a machine gun. The Kumuls are predominantly players from the local league though so fitness or a lack thereof is expected to take its toll as the game wears on.
France have more depth and have played a lot more footy together over recent years. The loss to the US was a shock but they should have the cattle to see off the early PNG onslaught and leave Hull with a valuable win.
The way it’s shaping
France by 7