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.
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.
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.