NRL Preview: Hodgson back, Rabbitohs trio return, Panthers start Luai

After a break for the representative round last weekend, we are back with another preview of the NRL’s upcoming round 15 fixtures.

Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs

A vintage performance from the Tigers’ Benji Marshall secured a dramatic 27-26 win over the Cowboys last time out, keeping them well within the top eight mix on the Best Betting Sites Australia and level on points with Parramatta in eighth. The New Zealand playmaker will have to play a key role once again as they face title chasers South Sydney, who have not had the best of times in recent weeks due to injuries and Origin call-ups. The Rabbitohs’ defence remains their cornerstone while running the attack through Damien Cook at hooker and Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds in the halves.

Team news: Both Chris Lawrence and Josh Aloiai are named in the Tigers’ starting line-up.

Souths are given a huge boost by the returning Braidon Burns, George Burgess and Adam Reynolds.

St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys

The pressure remains on the Dragons as after being scorched by the Sea Eagles last week, they now sit in 13th place albeit two points adrift of a finals spot. This should be an interesting match-up in terms of the NRL finals as both St George Illawarra and North Queensland sit on equal points, with the Cowboys only ahead on points difference. The Dragons’ defence will need to make big improvements here after suffering six losses in their last seven games, while the Cowboys will continue to play from the duo of Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan.

Team news: The only noteworthy change for the Dragons sees Tim Lafai come into the starting fold after returning from an ankle injury.

Exciting talent, Scott Drinkwater is back from injury and is immediately thrown into the full-back spot to make his debut for North Queensland, with Michael Morgan moving to his preferred stand-off position. The suspension to Josh McGuire sees Jordan McLean take his role, while Reuben Cotter is the man that replaces the injured Kurt Baptiste.

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm

If the first game between this pair was anything to go by, then we are certainly in for the biggest of treats once again.

Both teams put out a game of the season contender last time out, with the Roosters edging a thriller. In terms of form, Storm look to have the better side of it but it is not exactly a secret as to how much of a handful the Roosters’ attacking outlet can be on a given day. However, the Roosters will once again have to keep a tight lock on Cam Munster and Brandon Smith who have proved to be extreme handfuls this season.

Team news: Origin star James Tedesco is back after being rested in round 14 to take his place as the Roosters’ fullback and Zane Tetevano take us up a starting role at prop.

It is good news for Melbourne because all of their international and origin call-ups come back free from any issues.

Gold Coast Titans v Manly Sea Eagles

The Titans will undoubtedly have it all to do here as Manly look to be near full strength, with star Tom Trbojevic fresh from an epic State of Origin performance after making his Blues return on Sunday. The Sea Eagles look a different entity when they have Tommy Turbo and Daly Cherry-Evans flying on all cylinders and will run their attack through the dynamic pairing once more. The Titans, though, can cling to their impressive showing over the Northern Beaches side that saw a surprising win at Lottoland in round 11. But it is going to take a lot of toughness to match up to power of Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake in the Manly forward pack.

Team news: A reshuffle in the Gold Coast back-row has Jai Whitbread and Will Matthews named in the starting 13.

An ankle injury to Api Koroisau means Manase Fainu is in at hooker for Manly.

Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos

Despite going into round 14 on the back of six straight wins, the Knights came back down to earth with their biggest loss of the season to Melbourne. However, they now come face-to-face with a Brisbane side that have had their own issues as of late. The Broncos have lost their last two with an inconsistent attacking threat being the cause for concern this season, which is hard to fathom when you look at the talent in their backline. If they want to come away with the win here, Seibold’s men will have to find a better rhythm, whereas the Knights may want to improve their discipline after racking up a significant number of errors against the Storm.

Team news: Sione Mata’utia is given a shot in Newcastle’s starting line up due to Mitch Barnett’s suspension and David Klemmer (wrist) is named amongst the reserves.

Andrew McCullough secures the number nine jersey for Brisbane while Richie Kennar replaces Jamayne Isaako on the wing.

Parramatta Eels v Canberra Raiders

Both teams are fresh off their own convincing wins but lie in precarious spots within the table as Canberra laid down a marker for their top four hopes after beating Cronulla while Parramatta are amongst the top eight after toppling Brisbane. The Raiders will be hoping to lead on from a win over the Eels back in round five and will benefit from that tough forward back led by John Bateman in the back-row, while the Eels could look to the likes of Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo to be a torment on the wings.

Team news: Young half-back Dylan Brown makes his return for Parramatta while Brad Takairangi takes a spot in the centres.

The unavailability of Nick Cotric means Sebastian Kris is named at centre for Canberra. The Raiders will also be bolstered by the return of Josh Hodgson at hooker while Adam Seizer sees his spot in the halves secured.

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers

It was not long ago that the Panthers were being dubbed as one of the disappointments of the year but there seems to be a reassurance brewing in the midst of Penrith as they stand as one of the league’s most in-form teams. However, if they want to continue their red-hot form, they will have to do it against a Warriors side that spared no expense in dispatching Ivan Cleary’s men 30-10 last time out. If the Warriors want the win here then Roger Tuivasa-Sheck needs to be heavily involved while Penrith will look to the recent displays of James Maloney while trying to maintain a form of consistency in defence, with the latter being an aspect that has been a troubling issue all season.

Team news: The Warriors’ back-row sees Jazz Tevaga come into the fold due to the injury of Tohu Harris (knee) and Nathaniel Roche makes his return.

The unfortunate ankle injury to Nathan Cleary means Jarome Luai will partner Maloney in the halves for Penrith, and it is the only notable change by the Panthers.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Cronulla Sharks

Despite the loss to Canberra in round 14, the Sharks remain one of the league’s dark horses this season and may fancy a decent push for the top four, especially now with returning Origin star Wade Graham back to his best. The Bulldogs, however, remain way out of a post season spot with the chance of claiming the wooden spoon a real possibility. But they can take some comfort in their ability to push the top teams to the limit. If Cronulla come out ready to play with that exciting backline then Canterbury may find things difficult.

Team news: Jake Cogger is named at scrum-half for Canterbury, despite a head injury suffered back in round 13. Michael Lichaa is the new face at hooker and Chris Smith is selected at loose forward.

Jayden Brailey comes in at hooker for the Sharks and Braden Hamlin-Uele is given the nod to replace Andrew Fifita (suspension). Aaron Woods is named on the reserves as he nears his return from a foot injury.

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how the Burgess boys, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, James Graham and all the others are getting on Down Under.

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