JULIE STOTT | The Star
LONDON - Paul Aiton is convinced Papua New Guinea can pull off a major shock by knocking England out of the World Cup.
Aiton and his Kumuls team will have eight million fans screaming them on back in PNG.
The Catalans and former Leeds star admits even he’s in awe of the passion in a country where rugby league is the national sport.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of trouble with politics and tribal stuff but when we play for the Kumuls everyone is behind us.
“It is hard for other people to understand. PNG people just love the game - they even clap if the other team does something well which is unreal.”
England are big favourites to win Sunday’s quarter-final in Melbourne but Aiton insists his side also have their eyes on the semi-finals. He said: “Our chances are very good, 50-50 as far as we’re concerned. We are training to win.”
The Kumuls dominated their group, racking up 128 points and conceding only six in their three games.
Now the 15th ranked team in the world is targeting the greatest win in their history and Aiton can’t wait.
He said: “It is history again for us. It would be massive. Coming into the tournament we didn’t want to settle for a couple of wins at home.
“You dream of the quarters and now we can focus fully on this game and hopefully further than that.”
Wales, Ireland and USA players all admitted they were intimidated by playing in front of the intense local crowds in Port Moresby.
The Kumuls lose that home advantage this week, with the England game in Australia, but Aiton says he is still confident.
He said: “It is good to play at home but that also comes with a lot of pressure because there are eight million people behind you.
England v Papua New Guinea at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Sunday 4pm AEDT