Ireland’s rugby league coach wary of PNG winger ahead of crunch World Cup clash

Irish player Liam Finn with Ireland boss, Mark Aston

Ireland coach Mark Aston is warning his side to prepare for the threat posed by the player he calls his son when they take on Papua New Guinea in the World Cup.

Winger Garry Lo, who was the scourge of Wales in last Saturday’s 50-6 hammering in Port Moresby, was given his break by Aston at Sheffield Eagles, for whom he scored 49 tries in 46 appearances and is tipped by his mentor to become a success in Super League with Castleford under his old team-mate Daryl Powell in 2018.

More immediately, Lo will be looking to help the Kumuls book their place in the World Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Aston’s Ireland when the teams meet in the second round of Group C fixtures in Port Moresby on Saturday.

"Garry was the first person to meet me at the airport," said Aston, who arrived with his squad on Wednesday from Cairns, fresh from pulling off a surprise 36-12 win over Italy in their opening game.

"He calls me his English dad. I know what he’s got and he was good at the weekend. That was no surprise to me. Daryl has got a good player who will only get better as he matures. He could be a very dangerous player on Sunday."

The Ireland squad, who were the only home nation to win a game in the first weekend, attended a reception in the capital on Wednesday and have already experienced the craze with which the locals treat rugby league, the country’s national sport.

"We had a security escort, with six cars following the bus and a couple of us got on the back of the pick-up and stood up and watched it all," Aston said. "And it’s surreal.

"It’s magical what it means to these people, there’s kids jumping all over you. It’s one of those moments where you just go ’wow!

"We’ve bought into it. When we got drawn in this group, I said we were not going to come into PNG and run out, we’re going to enjoy it.

"Garry wants to take me out for the day on Friday and show me some of the sights. People are saying don’t go out but what are they going to do to me?

"Garry is the man here, Garry Lo in Port Moresby is the king. That is until Sunday when the mighty Ireland take over."

Aston plans to name an unchanged team for Saturday’s game, which is expected to draw another full house of 15,000 to the national stadium, as long as Canterbury Bulldogs centre Michael Morgan overcomes a leg knock he sustained on his debut against Italy.

"He’s got to do light duties and he’ll have a test on Friday," Aston said. "We’ll be nearly the same if not the same.

"You’ve got to reward people when they play like that. We had 85 per cent ball control in the first half and that’s when the game was won and lost."

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