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The Panthers will take on the defending premiers at home, with the Roosters having named all four of their Origin stars to back up (despite the rumour that Latrell Mitchell was heading home to Taree and would not be playing this week), while Penrith have named their lone Origin star Nathan Cleary in Jersey 21. It’s unclear at this stage whether or not he’ll play. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 4:05pm AEST.
Cooper Cronk is back for the Roosters after being rested two weeks ago leading into the bye. He will be partnered in the halves by club debutant Drew Hutchison.
Hutchison has had more than his fair share of injury troubles over his relatively short career. However he’s been playing well in the Canterbury Cup, and it will be great to see him return to the NRL.
The Roosters are pretty much at full strength for this game, with only Jake Friend and Brett Morris on the injured list.
Matt Ikavalu has had his struggles in defence and under the high ball this season. It will be interesting to see if Trent Robinson is tempted to bring the experienced Ryan Hall into the starting side in jersey 19 for his second NRL appearance.
The Panthers are having a bit of an outside back crisis. With Dallin Watene-Zelezniak seemingly headed to the Tigers, his brother Malakai injured along with Dean Whare and Waqa Blake, they have been forced to name something of a makeshift backline.
Back-rower Isaah Yeo partners Brent Naden (1 game) in the centres, while Brian To’o (3 games) slots in on the wing, with Josh Mansour on the other wing and Dylan Edwards at the back. You can be sure the Roosters will target Yeo out wide with their speed men.
As good as Yeo is, he’s hardly quick.
All signs point to the Roosters in this one. The Panthers have plenty of inexperience out wide which will be easy for a side as good as the Roosters to exploit.
The one saving grace for the Panthers is their pack. They have a really strong forward pack, with Tamou, Campbell-Gillard, Kikau, Winterstein and Fisher-Harris all representative-quality players.
However, they’re also up against a serious pack, and will need to aim up and not just match it with them, but dominate if they are to have a chance in this one.
I’m sorry Panthers fans, but this one could get ugly. Roosters by 20 and Latrell Mitchell to recapture some form.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4:05pm AEST.
Where: Panthers Stadium, Sydney
Streaming: NRL Digital Pass, 9 Now, Kayo Sports
TV: Channel 9, Fox League
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Isaah Yeo 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. James Maloney 8. James Tamou 9. Wayde Egan 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Frank Winterstein 13. James Fisher-Harris 14. Sione Katoa 15. Liam Martin 16. Moses Leota 17. Hame Sele 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Caleb Aekins 20. Mitch Kenny 21. Nathan Cleary
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Drew Hutchison 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Victor Radley 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaac Liu 14. Nat Butcher 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Sitili Tupouniua 17. Mitchell Aubusson 18. Poasa Faamausili 19. Ryan Hall 20. Lindsay Collins 21. Sam Verrills