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Can the Kumuls quieten England?
The 2021 Rugby League World Cup Quarter Finals continue on Sunday when England take on Papua New Guinea at the DW Stadium in Wigan.
England come into this match as the best attacking side in the World Cup thus far, having scored 196 points in their 3 Group games. They opened their campaign with an emphatic 60-6 victory against an injury ravaged Samoa. They then beat neighbours France 42-18 before annihilating World Cup debutants Greece 94-4. The highest tryscorer for the whole tournament thus far is English winger Dominic Young, who has bagged 8 tries in just 3 games, while his team mate Marc Sneyd has scored 44 points in his 2 games, 2 points less than the highest pointscorer thus far.
It is tough to get a genuine gauge on where the English are formwise when it comes to big games, as they haven't been tested genuinely as yet. They are very solid defensively in the middle of the park and are quite agile on the edges. For teams whose attack is less varied or complex, they will struggle to break through this English defence frequently enough to threaten them. In attack, England's edge forwards are brilliant ball runners and ball players and will be used to full effect to break apart less structured defensive lines.
Papua New Guinea lost their opening game in a somewhat controversial and genuinely unlucky result against tournament heavyweights Tonga, 24-18. They proved that they are one of the top sides by backing up from that tough loss to beat the Cook Islands 32-16 before dominating Wales 36-0. The Kumuls are a side that play with a lot of unrelenting powerful running, especially in the middle. No matter how good a defensive line is, if it switches off for a second, this Kumuls side will get through and add some genuine scoreboard pressure. In defence, their structure is not always perfect, but the physical impact they make is bruising and can make sides play before the line and thus be somewhat easier to defend against.
Last RLWC meeting: RLWC Quarter Finals 2017 - England 36 PNG 6
PNG also faced Great Britain in the 2019 post-season, which was won 28-10 by the Kumuls.
Who to watch: Edwin Ipape is a powerful ball running rake. His passing game from dummy half is crisp while his running game is more suited to a wide running Lock than a modern hooker. He is very tough to stop close to the line as well, especially with his lower centre of gravity and powerful leg drive, he is a real handful. Nene Macdonald and Justin Olam in the centres are powerful ball runners who also have that touch of class in their passing games to create and capitalise on the space and opportunities out wide.
Kai Pearce-Paul for England is an exciting young prospect who is equally at home at centre as he is in the back row. His line running, footwork at the line and passing games are all brilliant and he will be both a target and a link man in England's attack. Dom Young has had a stunning World Cup campaign thus far, proving to be quite adept at making the most of the opportunities presented to him out wide. The back row pairing of Elliott Whitehead and John Bateman are simply brilliant in everything they do and will be key men for the British.
The favourite: England are comfortable favourites.
My tip: Papua New Guinea have played some tougher games and will be more battle-ready than England. If the Kumuls can get away to an early lead and maintain their intensity, they may be able to unsettle the Englishmen. England though have been superb all tournament and are expected to win. England by 10.
1. Sam Tomkins 2. Tom Makinson 3. Kallum Watkins 4. Herbie Farnworth 14. Dominic Young 6. Jack Welsby 7. George Williams 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Michael McIlorum 18. Chris Hill 11. Elliott Whitehead 12. John Bateman 13. Victor Radley 15. Morgan Knowles 16. Matty Lees 17. Mike Cooper 20. Mike McMeeken 20. Kai Pearce-Paul
1. Alex Johnston 19. Jimmy Ngutlik 3. Nene Macdonald 4. Justin Olam 20. Rodrick Tai 6. Kyle Laybutt 7. Lachlan Lam 8. Wellington Albert 9. Edwin Ipape 10. Sylvester Namo 11. Nixon Putt 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Jacob Alick 15. Daniel Russell 16. Mckenzie Yei 22. Jeremiah Simbiken 23. Watson Boas 18. Keven Appo
Referees: Liam Moore; Sideline Officials: Darian Furner, Jack Smith; Video Referees: Adam Gee;