Papua New Guinea - where rugby league is the national sport - will enter the 2022 World Cup carrying the hopes of a nation, and have an excellent chance of being able to advance to the quarter-finals for only the third time.

The Kumuls had their second trip to the final eight at the World Cup during the 2017 tournament, from which historic scenes of games being played in Port Moresby won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Now they head to England where a number of their players call home with a chance to capitalise on that performance, and while they aren't favourites to take out their group, they have winnable games against the Cook Islands and Wales after a tough clash with Tonga which should leave them in with a strong chance of progressing to the knockouts.

There is some potential instability with Stanley Tepend taking over as coach, but an admirable performance in the mid-year Test against Fiji goes to show just how strong-willed the side is.

Now, with a number of NRL stars in the backline and a halves combination who combined well on that occasion, the Kumuls will make their World Cup push.

Here is the team that will carry their nation's hopes.

Full squad

Wellington Albert (London Broncos), Jacob Alick (Gold Coast Titans), Keven Appo (PNG Hunters), Watson Boas (Doncaster), Xavier Coates (Melbourne Storm), Edene Gebbie (Townsville Blackhawks), Edwin Ipape (Leigh Centurions), Zev John (Central Queensland Capras), Alex Johnston (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Lachlan Lam (Leigh Centurions), Kyle Laybutt (Townsville Blackhawks), Nene Macdonald (Leigh Centurions), Rhyse Martin (Leeds Rhinos), Sylvester Namo (PNG Hunters), Jeremy Ngutlik (Western Suburbs Magpies), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm), Nixon Putt (Central Queensland Capras), Daniel Russell (Brisbane Tigers), Jeremiah Simbiken (Redcliffe Dolphins), Rodrick Tai (PNG Hunters), Sherwin Tanabi (PNG Hunters), Wesser Tenza (PNG Hunters), Emmanuel Waine (PNG Hunters), McKenzie Yei (Central Queensland Capras)


The spine is about as simple to pick as you could possibly imagine for Papua New Guinea, with only a couple of limited questions.

The biggest of those is whether Alex Johnston is better served on the wing or at fullback.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs gun, who will likely become the NRL's top try-scorer in history in the comnig seasons if he stays fit, is a winger at club level, but for a Papua New Guinea side without great options, he needs to be at the back. Edene Gebbie, who plays for the Townsville Blackhawks in the QLD Cup, is the only other realistic option.

In the halves, Lachlan Lam is the first picked to wear the number seven. The former Sydney Roosters' player was struggling for game time at the tri-colours, but has since made the switch to England where he plays with the Leigh Centurions.

He will be joined in the halves by Kyle Laybutt, who was exceptional for the Kumuls during the mid-year Test, and will need to play a big role wearing number six during the World Cup.

Watson Boas, who plays for Doncaster, is the back up within the squad for the duo.

At hooker, Edwin Ipape will likely have first crack, with Hunters' hooker Wesster Tenza to serve as his back up for the tournament, although both will likely get minutes as Papua New Guinea attempt to advance out of the group stage.


The backline is where the Kumuls shine, with some serious NRL or ex-NRL talent on display in jerseys two through five.

With Alex Johnston taking over at fullback, it does leave one spot up for grabs, but three are taken hands down by excellent players with try-scoring ability.

Xavier Coates, who was part of the Queensland State of Origin side this year, will line up on one wing, while the centre combination will be Justin Olam and Nene Macdonald.

Queensland Maroons Training Session

Olam is one of the best centres in the NRL without a shadow of a doubt, while Macdonald has had a strong season with the Leigh Centurions in England, and will also have the benefit of combinations with Lam and Ipape.

The other wing spot is a race between Gebbie, and Western Suburbs Magpies lower grade excitement machine Jeremy Ngutlik. For his strength and power, Ngutlik will likely take the spot, with Gebbie only managing three games in the QLD Cup this season.


The forward pack will be led by the likely new captain Rhyse Martin, who has been a strong performer in the English Super League since his time as a bright spark with the Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL.

He takes over the leadership of the team from David Mead, who recently retired from the international game.

Martin will be joined in the second row by Daniel Russell, who was excellent in the mid-year Test and has shown strong form in his 19 games for the Brisbane Tigers this year, playing 80 minutes every time he took to the field.

He can also shift to the centres if need be, handing the Kumuls some much needed versatility in the 17.

That leaves Nixon Putt, Jacob Alick, Keven Appo, Jeremiah Simbiken and Sherwin Tanabi without a spot in the starting 13.

Expect Alick - who is part of the Gold Coast Titans system - to play slightly out of position at lock as he did in the mid-year Test against Fiji, doing a solid job.

That will leave experienced campaigner Wellington Albert to start in the front row alongside Zev John from the Central Queensland Capras, with Sylvester Namo missing out on a starting spot alongside McKenzie Yei.


While Dan Russell provides the team with some versatility, there is no obvious option to move into the dummy half role should problems hit Ipape.

That likely means Wesser Tenza will take a spot on the bench with his ability to play hooker.

The Kumuls will then add some size and strength to the bench with prop Sylvester Namo the next picked, while McKenzie Yei should also find his way onto the pine to add more to the middle third rotation.

The final spot goes to an edge player, with the experienced Nixon Putt being the fairly obvious candidate ahead of Keven Appo, Jeremiah Simbiken and Sherwin Tanabi.

Best 17

1. Alex Johnston
2. Xavier Coates
3. Justin Olam
4. Nene Macdonald
5. Jeremy Ngutlik
6. Kyle Laybutt
7. Lachlan Lam
8. Wellington Albert
9. Edwin Ipape
10. Zev John
11. Rhyse Martin (c)
12. Daniel Russell
13. Jacob Alick
14. Wesser Tenza
15. Sylvester Namo
16. McKenzie Yei
17. Nixon Putt

Key information

Group: D
Coach: Stanley Tepend
Captain: Rhyse Martin
Number of World Cups: 7
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals (2000, 2017)

Wednesday, October 19, 5:30am: vs Tonga
Wednesday, October 26, 5:30am: vs Cook Islands
Tuesday, November 1, 6:30am: vs Wales