WALES coach John Kear says his players have shown “hearts of lions” at the World Cup and deserve something to show for their efforts.
The group stage finishes tonight (Monday, kick-off 7.30pm) with Kear’s side taking on Papua New Guinea at Doncaster’s Eco-Power Stadium.
Wales can still qualify for the quarter-finals but would require a handsome margin of victory against a PNG side gunning for the knockout rounds themselves.
Kear’s goal before the tournament began was to secure at least one victory, but they have been unfortunate to come up short in both attempts so far.
They lost by six points to Cook Islands in the opening round, and were then beaten by Tonga, despite leading for much of the first half last week.
“These fellas deserve something, they really do. We were playing one of the top four-ranked nations in the world – they are basically an NRL team and a very good NRL team,” said Kear of the Tonga loss.
“These fellas traded blows with them and went punch for punch with them and they’ve got hearts of lions. I’m very proud of them.
“There are still a few areas we can fine tune but I certainly can’t fault their attitude, their heart, their effort or the endeavour.
“There are lots of plus points but a lot to work on if we are to keep improving.”
Wales have remarkably not won a World Cup matches for 22 years, since their run to the semi-finals of the 2000 edition.
They did not qualify in 2008, with their involvement limited to a national record 74-0 defeat to England in a World Cup warm-up – their only previous international in Doncaster.
In both 2013 and 2017 they lost all three group matches to be eliminated.
Wales squad: Caleb Aekins, Rhys Williams, Will Evans, Elliot Kear, Josh Ralph, Anthony Walker, Matty Fozard, Dan Fleming, Rhodri Lloyd, Chester Butler, Ollie Olds, Curtis Davies, Joe Burke, Bailey Antrobus, Connor Davies, Mike Butt, Kyle Evans, James Olds, Gavin Bennion.
PNG squad: Alex Johnston, Nene MacDonald, Justin Olam, Xavier Coates, Kyle Laybutt, Lachlan Lam, Wellington Albert, Edwin Ipape, Sylvester Namo, Nixon Putt, Rhyse Martin, Jacob Alick, Dan Russell, MacKenzie Yei, Emmanual Waine, Kevin Appo, Rodrick Tai, Sherwin Tanabi, Watson Boas.