Wales targeting long-awaited World Cup win and quarter-final qualification
Wales coach John Kear is confident his side can end their 22-year wait for a World Cup victory against Papua New Guinea on Monday and has not given up hope of reaching the knockout stages.
The Welsh last won at the World Cup in 2000 when they beat PNG in Widnes.
They failed to win a game at the 2013 and 2017 tournaments after missing out on qualification for 2008, and this time have produced valiant performances in defeat by Group D rivals Cook Islands and Tonga.
Wales have one last chance to break their duck and salvage something tangible from the tournament and, with victory at Doncaster, could even finish level on points in second place with PNG.
Points difference would then determine which team goes through to a quarter-final clash with England in Wigan next Saturday.
“It’s obviously very important to us to get a win but I think it’s important as well to outsiders looking in,” Kear said.
“As a group we wrote down what we felt success would be in this World Cup and we made a pact to keep it within ourselves but if, we played as we’ve written it, we wouldn’t be far away with regard to achieving the first win.
“We’ve also looked at the points difference and we know, if we beat them by 22, we’re in the quarter-finals, so we aren’t putting a white flag up.”
Kear has recalled Will Evans, Rhodri Lloyd and Mike Butt from the team that lost to Tonga and has included stand-off Ollie Olds, who was forced off with a shoulder injury in the last game.
“We’ve had to manage three or four this week and there’s two players who have still got to have a fitness test on Sunday,” Kear said.
“But we’re looking pretty healthy and the big thing is mentally they’re looking sharp and they’re enthused by the challenge in front of them.
“When you’ve got that between your ears, it can put a lot of physical things on the back burner.
“I think we’re in pretty good space to say we’ve played Cook Islands and Tonga.
“We’ve another big challenge in front of us against PNG, who have gone really well so far.
“They’ve got a forward pack that comes out like cannonballs, two really good half-backs – Lachlan Lam is a Super League player and he will prove that next year – and Alex Johnstone has looked very threatening indeed at full-back.
“They’ve also got centres like Nene Macdonald and Justin Olam who are quality so they’ve a good, well-balanced rugby league team.
“We’ve had two big challenges prior to this and we’re really happy to embrace this and hopefully be successful at it.”
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