PREVIEW: Fiji v Papua New Guinea - Pacific Test

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Fiji v Papua New Guinea Saturday 7:50pm at Campbelltown Stadium, Leumeah

PNG, Fiji face off three years after Christchurch thriller

It is a game almost three years in the making. 

After last going head-to-head back in late November, Papua New Guinea and Fiji will face off once again this Saturday night at Campbelltown Stadium. 

If the last fixture between the two is anything to go by this is not a game to miss, with the Bati winning a thriller 22-20 in Christchurch. 

Ben Nakubuwai, who has signed with Leigh for the rest of the season, scored the match-winning try that time but is off playing in England now, with his eyes on the World Cup. 

Viliame Kikau and Tui Kamikamica scored on that night too though and both will be running out on Saturday night, hopeful to power Fiji to another victory.

As for the Kumuls, Rhyse Martin scored 12 of Papua New Guinea's 20 points in 2019's fixture but is also currently in England, with uncertainty shrouding his future at Leeds. 

Winger Edene Gebbie (one try, 205 run metres, seven tackle busts) also put on a show as did South Sydney flyer Alex Johnston (108 run metres, six tackle breaks).

Gebbie is currently playing community representative football in Queensland but Johnston will be suiting up for the Kumuls again, hoping for a different result in Saturday's game.

In more general team news, Johnston headlines a PNG side which is bolstered by the additions of veteran Bronco David Mead (captain) and barnstorming centre Justin Olam. 

Kyle Laybutt and Lachlan Lam (Townsville Blackhawks) will come together in the halves for the Kumuls.

As for Fiji, Kikau and Kamikamica as mentioned will be leading the forward pack again, while Kevin Naiqama will skipper the Bati. 

Maika Sivo and Mikaele Ravalawa are on the wings, just part of an exciting back five that includes Semi Valemei and Waqa Blake in the centres and young Panther Sunia Turuva at the back. 
The two teams have played five times since 2011, with Papua New Guinea winning three.

Last meeting: Test Matches 2018 - PNG 26 Fiji 14

Who to watch: The battle of the fullbacks alone is worth the price of admission, even if only Panthers fans may be familiar with young gun Turuva. In Alex Johnston, the Kumuls have a genuine leader whose vocal presence on the field will help set the defensive line. That is not even mentioning Johnston's pace off the mark and evasiveness that will make him hard to handle in attack.

As for Sunia Turuva, Penrith officials have very high hopes for the 19-year-old. So much so that Turuva, who is currently an NRL development player, was re-signed earlier this month for another two years and will be prompted to the club's top 30 from next season. Turuva, like Johnston, is a flashy fullback with a lethal combination of speed and power. But he also does the little things right, with Panthers officials comparing him to NRL counterpart Dylan Edwards in the work he gets through bringing the ball up in his own half.

The favourite: Fiji is the strong favourite to get the job done. 

My tip: It is hard to count out the Kumuls, who always rise to the occasion on the international stage. The same goes for the Bati though, who may just have a bit more experience in the outside backs. Fiji by 18.

1. Sunia Turuva 2. Mikaele Ravalawa 3. Semi Valemei 4. Waqa Blake 5. Maika Sivo 6. Kevin Naiqama 7. Nautu'a Masima 8. Joseph Ratuvakacerivalu 9. Penioni Tagituimua 10. Tui Kamikamica 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Taniela Sadrugu 13. Taane Milne 14. Isaac Lumelume 15. Pio Seci 16. Lamar Manuel-Liolevave 17. Kaylen Miller 18. Ralulu Nasoki 19. Waqasaqa Qiolevu 20. Mesake Kurukitoga

1. Alex Johnston 2. Robert Derby 3. David Mead 4. Justin Olam 5. Terry Wapi 6. Kyle Laybutt 7. Lachlan Lam 8. Epel Kapinias 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Sylvester Namo 11. Dan Russell 12. Nixon Putt 13. Jacob Allick 14. Liam Horne 15. Emmanuel Waine 16. Mckenzie Yei 17. Dilbert Isaac 18. Junior Rop 19. Sherwin Tanabi 20. Solo Wane

Referees: Todd Smith; Sideline Officials: Chris Sutton, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Matt Noyen;

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