NRL Preview: Cowboys welcome back Holmes, star duo boost Roosters & Johnson returns

We have previewed each game in round 16 of the NRL campaign.

Thursday, August 27

Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs

A great start to the 16th round of the NRL season as third placed Parramatta take on a surging South Sydney. Both teams come into this one surely full to the brim with confidence as the Eels got their title bid back on track after becoming the first team since 2014 to keep Melbourne scoreless while the Rabbitohs put up 56 points in a nine-try demolition of Manly. There will certainly be questions surrounding Parramatta’s win over Melbourne as the Storm had plenty of stars missing and this will be a much stiffer test as Souths have now found some great form in recent weeks to now be firmly within an NRL finals spot in seventh.

Team news: The only change for the Eels sees Andrew Davey make his way onto the bench for the suspended Marata Niukore.

Rabbitohs’ top try scorer Alex Johnston (head knock) and centre Dane Gagai (hamstring) both sit out. Corey Allan is on the wing and Liam Knight is back on the interchange.

Friday, August 28

St George Illawarra Dragons v Gold Coast Titans

The post-Paul McGregor era got off to a great start for the Dragons last week as they fought their way to a 28-24 win over the Broncos. They now face Gold Coast who despite sitting in 13th place on the league ladder and struggling for wins have still been a vastly improved outfit since Justin Holbrook took over. The Titans had no answer for Canberra last week though, but both Jamal Fogarty and AJ Brimson continue to be sparks for a struggling attack. Meanwhile, St George Illawarra have found some essence in attack this year, with Matt Dufty proving to be one of the most improved players in the league.

Team news: A couple of changes for the Dragons as Jackson Ford and Billy Brittain replace Paul Vaughan (suspension) and Korbin Sims (calf).

The Titans are given a boost as Ash Taylor returns to the halves while Tyrone Peachey starts in place of Moeiaki Fotuaika (suspended). Mitch Rein is the new face at hooker and Beau Fermor replaces Keegan Hipgrave in the second-row.

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos

Despite injury headaches for the most part of the year, the Roosters gained some confidence following a comprehensive win over the Tigers in round 15 to regain fourth place. Even without Luke Keary, Boyd Cordner or Angus Crichton, Sydney still found some offensive juice with the Morris twins starring while James Tedesco again proved why he is one of the best players on the planet after stepping up in the absence of Keary. The Broncos’ nightmare run continued last week as even though they put in a valiant effort against the Dragons, a win just was not to be. The pressure has now finally reached its crescendo as Anthony Seibold stood down as Brisbane’s head coach so it will be interesting to see where things go from here now.

Team news: The Roosters welcome two more returnees this week as Daniel Tupou and Boyd Cordner are selected to start.

Sean O’Sullivan marks his first game of the season for the Broncos with Anthony Milford (hamstring) out. Cory Paix is the new face at dummy half.

Saturday, August 29

New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights

The Knights firmed up their NRL finals place with a 12-0 win over North Queensland last week but has as so often been the case for many teams this year, it was not without its injury issues. The Knights now take on a Warriors side who have defied all the odds and overcome plenty of obstacles during a torrid year to find themselves in a tie for ninth place.

Team news: Chanel Harris-Tavita takes the number seven jersey for the Warriors and Eliesa Katoa is back in the second-row.

Mason Lino slots in at five-eighth for the Knights.

Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys

They may look set for a finals place but another heavy defeat to first placed showed again that the Sharks defence leaves a lot to be desired. As other teams sit right in their rear-view mirror on the NRL ladder, the job now is to lock in the play-offs spot  as they sit four points of their nearest challengers in eighth whilst also looking to silence plenty of doubters towards their finals credentials. They now face North Queensland who have failed to register a win since their round seven win over Newcastle but in recent weeks they have shown interim coach Josh Hannay there is still plenty of heart as they made life hard for South Sydney and Newcastle over the last two rounds.

Team news: Shaun Johnson is back in at half-back for Cronulla and he partners Connor Tracey who replaces Matt Moylan at stand-off. Briton Nikora also marks his returns in the back-row.

With Jason Taumalolo (calf) out, Josh McGuire reverts to lock and Francis Molo starts in the front-row. The Cowboys also see the return of Valentine Holmes (ankle).

Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers

The Panthers quest for this season’s Minor Premiership looks fully on track as they took down Cronulla in decisive fashion last week with Nathan Cleary again showing why he was one of the stars of the season. They now find themselves on a 10-game win streak and can put an end to the Tigers finals hopes with a win here. The Tigers certainly looked a play-offs side earlier on in the season but over the last few rounds have not looked up to the task as they sit in ninth spot four points adrift of eighth with only one win in their last four.

Team news: Panthers lose star duo Api Koroisau (calf) and Viliame Kikau (suspended) so a re-shuffle is needed with Mitch Kenny moving to dummy half, Isaah Yeo going into the second-row and James Fisher-Harris taking the loose forward spot. Brian To’o makes his comeback from an ankle injury.

Harry Grant (knee) is back amongst the starting 13 for the Tigers while Alex Twal starts at lock and Matt Eisenhuth takes a spot on the bench. Russell Packer has been dropped and Tom Mikaele is the new man in the front-row.

Sunday, August 30

Melbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles

The loss of offensive star power finally became too much for Melbourne as they come into this one on the back of a shutout loss to Parramatta. However, losing back-to-back games is something that does not usually compute with the Storm no matter what the circumstance. They can bounce back here against a Manly side still feeling the aftereffects of a devastating 56-16 defeat to the Rabbitohs. The Sea Eagles still have a chance to make the top eight but need to find themselves on a bit of a run while hoping the Sharks slip up.

Team news: Plenty of changes for Melbourne as they welcome back Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Jesse Bromwich and Jahrome Hughes from injury. Brandon Smith (jaw) and Kenny Bromwich are both out.

Tevita Funa and Reuben Garrick swap places with Funa moving to full-back and the latter taking his place back on the wing. Moses Suli (foot) is out for the year so Jack Gosiewski reverts to centre while Joel Thompson returns from a tongue injury and Martin Taupau starts in the front-row.

Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs

After an impressive win over Gold Coast, the Raiders are now breathing down the necks of reigning premiers Sydney in fourth with four wins in their last five games. It was not long ago that it looked like Ricky Stuart’s side were limping their way to the finals with injury concerns. The wins over Brisbane and Gold Coast may have been seen as straightforward but it has allowed the Raiders to find some potency in attack. They now face Canterbury who have plenty to play for themselves as they look to fight their way off bottom spot. There is no question the desire is there but on too many occasions this year they have lacked a killer instinct in attack to take home potential wins.

Team news: Matthew Timoko makes his NRL debut off the bench for Canberra and Josh Papalii, Hudson Young and Dunamis Lui are all named to start after coming off the bench last week. Ryan Sutton and Joe Tapine move to the bench.

Big changes for Canterbury as Luke Thompson, Tim Lafai, Jake Averillo, Jack Cogger and Reimis Smith have all been left out of the squad as Marcelo Montoya, Lachlan Lewis, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dylan Napa, Josh Jackson and Aiden Tolman make their way back into the starting side.

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, Luke Thompson and George Williams and all the others are getting on Down Under.

Listen to The Final Hooter podcast, featuring exclusive interviews, every week. SUBSCRIBE to Love Rugby League on Apple Podcasts.

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