The Bati head into this Saturday's Oceania Cup Test against the Kumuls brimming with confidence after a stunning demolition of Samoa in Auckland last weekend.
This will be the Kumuls' first Test since a mid-year loss to Samoa, though they had some bright moments in the recent World Cup 9s with a convincing win over USA and a one-point loss to the Kiwis.
They are unfortunately understrength with an already-limited number of NRL players from which to choose trimmed further with skipper James Segeyaro currently fighting a provisional ASADA ban and injury to Kurt Baptiste. The likes of Justin Olam, Rhyse Martin, Kyle Laybutt and Watson Boas will be crucial to the team's hopes.
Match: Fiji v Papua New Guinea
Round 4 -
Papua New Guinea
Venue: Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Fiji Bati: Parramatta star Maika Sivo is back on the wing after he was suspended for last week's win over Samoa. Isaac Lumelume has made way for the Eels speedster in the side's only change. The Bati say they're unlikely to change their line-up for game day.
PNG Kumuls: The Kumuls have seven changes from the mid-year test loss to Samoa including Rabbitohs star Alex Johnston lining up at fullback, Justin Olam in at centre, Watson Boas into the halves and the return of veteran Stargroth Amean on the bench. PNG are set to be as per program.
Fullback for Fiji is number 1 Siti MoceidrekeFullback for Papua New Guinea is number 1 Alex Johnston
Winger for Fiji is number 2 Maika SivoWinger for Papua New Guinea is number 2 Edene Gebbie
Centre for Fiji is number 3 Taane MilneCentre for Papua New Guinea is number 3 Dan Russell
Centre for Fiji is number 4 Brayden WiliameCentre for Papua New Guinea is number 4 Justin Olam
Winger for Fiji is number 5 Suliasi VunivaluWinger for Papua New Guinea is number 5 Terry Wapi
Five-Eighth for Fiji is number 6 Kevin NaiqamaFive-Eighth for Papua New Guinea is number 6 Kyle Laybutt
Halfback for Fiji is number 7 Brandon WakehamHalfback for Papua New Guinea is number 7 Watson Boas
Prop for Fiji is number 8 Kane EvansProp for Papua New Guinea is number 8 Wellington Albert
Hooker for Fiji is number 9 Joe LovoduaHooker for Papua New Guinea is number 9 Wartovo Puara
Prop for Fiji is number 10 Tui KamikamicaProp for Papua New Guinea is number 10 Luke Page
2nd Row for Fiji is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Papua New Guinea is number 11 Nixon Putt
2nd Row for Fiji is number 12 Ben Nakubuwai2nd Row for Papua New Guinea is number 12 Rhyse Martin
Lock for Fiji is number 13 D'Rhys MillerLock for Papua New Guinea is number 13 Moses Meninga
Interchange for Fiji is number 14 Lamar LiolevaveInterchange for Papua New Guinea is number 14 Edwin Ipape
Interchange for Fiji is number 15 Joseph RatuvakacereivaluInterchange for Papua New Guinea is number 15 Stanton Albert
Interchange for Fiji is number 18 King VuniyayawaInterchange for Papua New Guinea is number 16 Enock Maki
Interchange for Fiji is number 19 Penioni TagituimuaInterchange for Papua New Guinea is number 17 Stargroth Amean
Viliame Kikau v Rhyse Martin. Kikau was a force of nature against Toa Samoa, winding up on that left edge, crashing over for two tries and offloading at will. Martin is arguably the best-credentialled player available to PNG along with Storm centre Justin Olam and will have a huge task in the pack regardless of where he plays but particularly if he lines up as expected on the right edge marking Kikau. A rugged ball runner with a big motor, he will need to provide plenty of starch against an energetic Bati pack.
For Fiji to win
Bottle whatever they had last week and pull it out again. Consistency hasn't historically been Fiji's greatest asset at the top level, with massive win over minnows sprinkled with big losses to higher-ranked nations as well as the odd impressive upset. They look near as strong as they ever have, particularly with Sivo's return from a one-game suspension. Replicate the energy and enthusiasm they ambushed Samoa with and the battle is half-won already.
For PNG to win
It's about belief as Fiji will have a stronger team on paper. The Kumuls have downed the Bati in their previous two meetings, in 2018 and 2016. The teams are very different this time around but if a Kumuls side renowned for ferocious carries and rugged defensive hits can generate some early momentum – like Fiji did to Samoa last week – anything is possible.
Fiji's last-up 44-18 win over Samoa was their biggest victory in a game against a tier-one nation or Pasifika nation other than Cook Islands. Following on from the mid-year trouncing of Lebanon they have now won their past two Tests by a combined 102-32.
And another thing…
Rabbitohs fullback Alex Johnston, who played one Test for the Kangaroos in 2015 and has twice represented the Indigenous All Stars, is in line to make his Kumuls debut after electing to honour his grandmother's Papua New Guinean heritage in what will be his second Test and first in four years.