Warrington Guardian sports editor Mike Parsons gives his thoughts on the town welcoming Papua New Guinea in next year’s biggest ever Rugby League World Cup

BASING Papua New Guinea in our town for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup is a great call by the event’s organisers.

The good people of Warrington will give the Kumuls an extra special welcome for several reasons and I, for one, am already feeling excited, honoured and proud for their stay.

They will train in the town and mix in the community in such ways as visiting schools and clubs, and it is likely they will play at least one of their Group D games at Warrington Wolves’ Halliwell Jones Stadium against Tonga, Wales or Cook Islands although this is yet to be announced.

The Papua New Guineans are friendly, passionate, colourful, rugby league loving folk, and as a rising force in the international game (they beat Great Britain in Port Moresby seven months ago) their national team deserve the kind of carnival celebration of the sport that Warrington will offer.

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There was a real buzz about the place when Warrington hosted Samoa for the 2013 World Cup, and their clash with New Zealand in the opening Group B match at a sold-out Halliwell Jones Stadium was one of the games of the tournament – with the 15,000 Warrington crowd taking Samoa to their hearts in a similar way that they did for Tonga when they played the Kiwis in the 1995 World Cup at Wilderspool Stadium.

Although the Kumuls have never played in Warrington before, the links are 45 years long from Warrington rugby league players visiting PNG with international sides since 1975.

That has never been at a level more evident than in the past few years, with Wire and Warrington-born players Joe Philbin, George King, Jack Hughes, Tom Lineham, Toby King, Dec Patton, Harvey Livett, Danny Walker, Chris Hill, Blake Austin, Daryl Clark, Emily Rudge, Jodie Cunningham, Tara Jones, Tyrone McCarthy and Ed Chamberlain all featuring in international squads in Papua New Guinea at some stage between 2017 and 2019.

For one of Warrington’s own, Philbin, he’s visited with Ireland, England Knights and Great Britain in successive years which must be something of a record.

Those players will tell you they had a fabulous experience, being welcomed into the country like long lost relatives and treated like heroes.

Next year we will be able to return such hospitality and provide the Kumuls, national icons in their country, with memories for life so that they can go home with stories of the love and warmth they felt from a northern English town that cherishes the spirit and values of rugby league as much as they do.