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Rugby League

Adrian Lam is a national hero in rugby league-mad Papua New Guinea. More than 10,000 people turned out to greet him when he recently made a flying visit to the country's capital, Port Moresby.

So what will the reception be if he leads the unfancied Kumuls to glory in next month's Halifax Centenary World Cup in Britain?

Lam could have played for the world champions, Australia, having been hotly tipped to take over the Kangaroos' No 7 jersey for last year's Test series against New Zealand.

But the 24-year-old scrum-half chose PNG - and the Super League - instead and was rewarded yesterday when he was named captain of their World Cup squad.

"I had the chance to play for Australia, but I would have completely lost face with the people of Papua New Guinea who have supported me throughout my career," he said.

Lam has made a huge impact in Australia, putting in stirring performances for Sydney City Roosters and helping Queensland to a surprising State of Origin whitewash against the hot favourites, New South Wales, this summer.

"Obviously it was great to be a Queenslander for the State of Origin series, but Papua is where my roots are," Lam said. "Financially, there are a lot of opportunities for me back home."

His agent, Sam Ayoub, says: "Adrian has become a national icon and could become Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea if he wanted."

Lam will have the chance to make a big name for himself on the world stage next month when Papua New Guinea take on New Zealand and Tonga, their group two rivals, in the World Cup. Victory would open the way to a possible match against Australia. Beating them could make prime minister a certainty.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA World Cup squad: Backs: D Buko, J Kops, D Gomia, J Okul, J Kouoru, A Emil, A Lam (capt), S Gene, M Bai, P Thomas, A Joseph. Forwards: B Biri, E Paiyo, T Evei, M Tira, N Yer, M Angra, D Reeka, D Westley, B Mamando, S Pinpin, L Solbat, B Noi.