The Kumuls are treating back-to-back Pacific Championships games against Fiji as a two-Test series as they strive to climb above Tonga and Samoa in the IRL World Rankings.
PNG and Bati play in consecutive weeks after both teams beat Cook Islands to ensure their places in the Pacific Bowl final ahead of Sunday’s final round of the tournament in Port Moresby.
However, Kumuls coach Justin Holbrook insisted his side’s approach to Sunday’s Test wouldn’t change.
“It is a tricky one because we do know that we’re going to play again the week after but, for myself and for our team, we’re just going to treat it as a two-Test series,” Holbrook said.
“We’re playing at home, and we have a big fan base here that we don’t want to disappoint, so while we know the week after is much more important, and it is tricky when you know you’re playing them twice, the best way to approach it is as a two-Test series.
“Obviously, the second Test is much more important because that will be a final but for us, we want to enjoy playing well and work hard so we’re going to treat both games the same.”
After beating the Aitu 46-10 two weeks ago, the Bati are hoping that successive wins against Fiji will enable them to rise from sixth spot on the World Rankings, particularly if fifth-placed Tonga lose their remaining two Tests against England.
Samoa are ranked third but suffered heavy defeats against Australia and New Zealand in the opening two rounds of the Pacific Championships and are likely to drop down the rankings list after England beat Tonga in the opening Test.
“All we can do is play well and win games and then that’ll hopefully shift in our favour,” Holbrook said.
“You can’t control the other games with the other nations, we can only control ourselves, so if we can put in two good performances over the next couple of weeks, whoever is in charge of that can hopefully shuffle us up a bit.”
The Kumuls have been bolstered by the arrival of England-based stars Rhyse Martin, Edwin Ipape, Wellington Albert and Keven Appo, who will all play against the Bati on Sunday.
The quartet were unavailable for the opening match of the tournament against the Cook Islands and with nine Kumuls in Super League, Holbrook called for next season’s grand final to align with the NRL decider.
“The future here is a very good one and it’s going to continue to accelerate at a fast rate now with the development going on in the game here,” Holbrook said.
“I think we’ve got the ability to really take off quick and catch those other nations that are ahead of us on the world stage.
“There’s a couple more guys that will go over the UK now – Roderick Tai is going to Warrington, Nixon Putt to Castleford and Wellington [Albert] won with London to get promoted so there’ll be three more PNG players playing Super League.
“It just makes it hard for the end of end of year Pacific Championships when you’ve got to get them back from the other side of the world quickly.
“That’s something we’ll have to look at because we now have 10 or 11 players over in the UK, which is why it would be tremendous if they [PNG] get a side in the NRL.
“That way those 10 or 11 who are now playing for PNG could play in the NRL rather than have to go to Super League.”
Meanwhile, Holbrook has stuck with five-eighth Kyle Laybutt as captain ahead of Martin, who held the job at last year’s World Cup.
Laybutt captained the PNG Prime Minister’s XIII against Australia last month and again led the team in Martin’s absence against the Cook Islands.
“Kyle’s been tremendous for the group and he’ll stay there,” Holbrook said.
“It’s great to have Rhyse back, and Rhyse did a tremendous job in the World Cup last year, but obviously he missed the PM’s game and he missed game one in this series, so he’s only just joined the group.”