Soward back as Dragons seek spark
St George Illawarra five-eighth Jamie Soward’s exile to NSW Cup was short-lived after the playmaker was recalled for Saturday night’s must-win NRL clash with Wests Tigers.
Dragons coach Steve Price banished the mercurial playmaker to the Illawarra Cutters last week due to poor form but reinstated him to the bench on Tuesday after his side’s crucial loss to the Sydney Roosters.
The defeat left the Dragons’ finals hopes hanging by a thread, sitting alongside three other teams in equal ninth spot with just four games remaining.
Kiwi international Nathan Fien has retained the No.6 jersey ahead of Soward, who has played just once since the start of July due to back spasms and below-par form.
Soward scored a try, set up two more and kicked five goals playing in the NSW Cup last week and he’ll be relied upon to spark the NRL’s worst attack.
Wests Tigers, who will be aiming to maintain eighth spot, have named an unchanged 17-man squad after scoring nine tries in their 51-26 demolition of Parramatta on Monday night.
Meanwhile, second-placed South Sydney welcome back captain Roy Asotasi and hooker Issac Luke on an extended six-man bench for Friday night’s blockbuster against Manly in Gosford.
Asotasi hasn’t played since April when he suffered a pectoral muscle injury and will be a good chance to line up against the Sea Eagles after playing with feeder club Norths last weekend.
Luke returns from a three-week suspension for a lifting tackle on Sydney Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowell and will share dummy-half duties with in-form incumbent rake Nathan Peats.
“Everybody knows how good Issac is and the impact he has on games,” said Rabbitohs fullback Nathan Merritt.
“It’s going to take a bit of pressure off Peatsy as he is not going to have to play the full 80. Issac is going to be fresh and ready to make a few line-breaks and rip it up.”
Manly’s forward pack is also back to full strength after co-captain Jason King was named to return from a chest injury.
With backrowers Tony Williams and Glenn Stewart returning to action in recent weeks, King’s inclusion comes at a crucial time as his fourth-place side build towards their premiership defence.
Steve Matai was also named despite the Kiwi international suffering deep ankle bruising against North Queensland on Saturday night and the centre will be given until game day to prove his fitness.
Canterbury five-eighth Kris Keating is back after two weeks out with a hamstring strain for Sunday’s clash with Brisbane.
Joel Romelo drops back to the bench for the ANZ Stadium encounter as the Bulldogs look to extend the Broncos’ three-match losing streak.
Newcastle prop Kade Snowden returns to face his former club Cronulla on Monday night at Hunter Stadium after five weeks out with a knee injury.
Gold Coast have named Greg Bird in an 18-man squad for Friday night’s clash with Melbourne at AAMI Park after the backrower missed last Sunday’s loss to Souths with a hamstring injury.© AAP 2013