Not just a holiday for the Knights

League Express editor Martyn Sadler discusses this Saturday’s clash between Papua New Guinea and England Knights in Lae.

The England Knights head coach Paul Anderson has named 17 players who will take on Papua New Guinea in Lae this Saturday.

And the squad looks a decent one to me. It should be a great experience for a largely young team to play in front of a fanatical crowd in the second largest city in Papua New Guinea. It is surely the trip of a lifetime for those players, who have been enjoying themselves on the beaches of Queensland this week, which must feel like a great reward for a long, hard season.

But they will face a massive change of culture when they head to Papua New Guinea, although I’m sure they will be fully prepared for the transition, both in terms of Rugby League’s special place in the hearts of Papuans, as well as the hot, humid climate.

I would recommend to the players that they try some of the local produce while they are in Lae. The city is part of Morobe Province, which produces a range of tropical products, including taros, bananas, sweet potatoes, yams, and many other sorts of fruits and vegetables, which many of the English players might not have experienced before making this trip.

But of course they are there to play rugby, and hopefully each player will be able to put a marker down to encourage England coach Wayne Bennett to promote them to the senior squad.

Oliver Holmes of Castleford, Liam Sutcliffe of Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR’s Robbie Mulhern have already made their full England debuts, which they did against France at Leigh last Wednesday.

Knights captain Jack Hughes is joined by Warrington Wolves’ team mates Toby King, Tom Lineham, Joe Philbin and Declan Patton, who was called up to the squad as a late addition. He will partner Hull KR’s Chris Atkin at halfback.

Named as vice-captain alongside Mulhern, Wigan Warriors’ Sam Powell is joined by Grand Final winning winger Tom Davies in the side to take on the Kumuls this weekend.

Young Player of the Year nominee Matty Lees is also named alongside Salford Red Devils fullback Niall Evalds, Kruise Leeming of Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Trinity’s James Batchelor.

Hull FC have two representatives in the side, loose forward Dean Hadley and utility forward Brad Fash.

The squad looks an accomplished one to me, and I’m glad to see that both Evalds and Patton are in the starting lineup, even though they were not named in the original squad that was due to make the trip.

The partnership between Patton and Atkin will be an interesting one, while Sam Powell at hooker is one of the more experienced players in the squad, having made his Super League debut in 2012, although Holmes can more than match him, having made his Castleford debut in 2010, while captain Jack Hughes made his debut in 2011.

The Kumuls will be aware of the developments taking place in the Southern Hemisphere, with a major international competition due to start as early as next year, and their players will be determined to make a big impression against the Knights.

In last year’s World Cup they were unbeaten at home against Wales, Ireland and the USA, before losing 36-6 to the full England side in the quarter-final in Melbourne.

I don’t expect such a one-sided scoreline on Saturday, but I do expect the Knights to come away with the victory. But whoever wins, it should be a hugely enjoyable game. It certainly won’t be a holiday.

England Knights squad to face PNG

  1. Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils)
  2. Tom Davies (Wigan Warriors)
  3. Toby King (Warrington Wolves)
  4. Liam Sutcliffe (Leeds Rhinos)
  5. Tom Lineham (Warrington Wolves)
  6. Chris Atkin (Hull KR)
  7. Declan Patton (Warrington Wolves)
  8. Robert Mulhern (Hull KR)
  9. Sam Powell (Wigan Warriors)
  10. Matty Lees (St Helens)
  11. Oliver Holmes (Castleford Tigers)
  12. Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves)
  13. Dean Hadley (Hull FC)
  14. Kruise Leeming (Huddersfield Giants)
  15. Joe Philbin (Warrington Wolves)
  16. James Batchelor (Wakefield Trinity)
  17. Brad Fash (Hull FC)

A full report from Lae will feature in next Monday’s League Express