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De Belin lands on PNG’s World Cup radar

St George Illawarra lock Jack de Belin has landed on the radar of the Papua New Guinea national team and looms as a shock option to feature for Michael Marum’s side in the Rugby League World Cup next year.

De Belin, who played 11 games for the Dragons in 2021, returned to the NRL earlier this year after being stood down for more than two seasons amid allegations of sexual assault.

At his second trial the forward was cleared of one count of sexual assault, but a jury was unable to reach a verdict on four other counts.

De Belin qualifies for the Kumuls via his grandmother and Marum said he had already begun making moves to secure the 30-year-old’s services.

“Jack is eligible,” Marum told AAP.

“Through our coaching group, John Wilshere talks to all the players and the clubs about selection.

“Jack was keen and I’m sure if he took the opportunity he would love it.

“He would come in and mix in really well with the other boys.

“I’m sure the boys would love him and the coaching staff and all the country would welcome him.”

Unlike the other Pacific nations, forwards are in short supply for the Kumuls after the retirement of seasoned prop Luke Page earlier this year.

Marum is, however, blessed with a backline boasting plenty of NRL experience in the shape of Melbourne’s Justin Olam, South Sydney flyer Alex Johnston and Brisbane’s David Mead.

He is hopeful of also securing commitment from Melbourne winger Xavier Coates after the 20-year-old, who won his first Kumuls cap in 2019 prior to making his NRL debut, represented Queensland in State of Origin over the past two seasons.

“Xavier has always said he’s interested in playing for PNG,” Marum said.

“He had to make the decision last year to play for Queensland. I think the eligibility rules meant that he had to nominate his first country of representation (as Australia) to play for the Maroons.

“We want him to play for PNG because he came in for us when he was 18 and everyone started taking notice of him.

“There was a fair bit of debate here which criticised him (for picking Australia) so he sent a few messages to his uncles to advise me that he was available for the Kumuls.”

PNG, who are currently ranked fifth by the International Rugby League, are in Pool D at next year’s World Cup with Tonga, Wales and the Cook Islands.

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