NRL Preview: Sivo boosts Eels, Staggs returns & Penrith without Cleary

The NRL is back after a week off due to State of Origin.

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm (Thursday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Main Event & Arena or Watch NRL)

Leeds-born Sam Walker is set to return for the Roosters

If past results are any indication, then we could be in for treat to start the weekend’s action as the high-flying Melbourne take on a struggling but battling Sydney side. The Roosters need a win here to stay within reach of the top four while a victory for Melbourne sees them remain in first place. The Storm are on a run of 12 straight matches and will prove to be a huge test for the Roosters who will be looking to shake off a tough loss to Penrith.

Team news: Sam Walker returns to the Roosters halves while James Tedesco and Angus Crichton are both set to start following game two of the Origin series.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona (suspended) is out for Melbourne so Tui Kamikamica moves to the bench while Jesse Bromwich marks his return from an elbow injury to partner Christian Welch in the front-row.

New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons (Friday, 9am, Watch NRL)

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will start on the wing for the Warriors

Both sides are right within the top eight mix at the moment and a win here could go a long way in seeing who makes the cut at the end of the regular season. The Dragons occupy seventh on the ladder while the Warriors sit in 12th but are separated by just two points so a victory for St George Illawarra will see them create some distance between themselves and a tough Warriors pack.

Team news: New recruits Chad Townsend and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak are both thrusted into the Warriors starting 13 at halfback and wing respectively. Reece Walsh (hamstring) remains out, so Roger Tuivasa-Sheck shifts back to full-back. Wayde Egan is back at hooker and Marcelo Montoya replaces Euan Aitken at centre.

The Dragons are boosted by the return of Matt Dufty at full-back while Jack Bird reverts back to centre. Mikaele Ravalawa is suspended so Gerard Beale is the new man on the wing.

Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels (Friday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)

Penrith will be without Nathan Cleary this week

A high quality affair sees two of the most impressive teams this year go head-to-head. For so long this season it looked like Penrith were going to stroll to another Minor Premiership but two straight losses during the Origin period allowed Melbourne to leapfrog into the first. A win against Sydney saw them return to winning ways to stay level on points with the Storm and a win here will once again be dependent on how well their New South Wales and Queensland stars perform. The Eels are not pushovers by any means as they sit calmly in third place and two points here will see them go level with Ivan Cleary’s men.

Team news: No Nathan Cleary for Penrith who suffered a shoulder injury in Origin, so Jarome Luai moves from stand-off to scrum-half while Matt Burton is back at number six and Tyrone May is the new face in the centres. Charlie Staines switches from the wing to full-back with Dylan Edwards out and Viliame Kikau is back from a hamstring injury.

A massive boost for Parramatta sees Maika Sivo back in the starting line-up after serving his suspension.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Manly Sea Eagles (Saturday, 6am, Watch NRL)

Tom Trbojevic is set to start for Manly following Origin duty

In no time at all Manly have managed to propel themselves from 15th place and a disaster season on the cards to sixth place with a potentially decent run throughout the NRL finals still to come if they keep up the pace. There is no getting round the fact that this has been mainly down to the inspirational displays of one Tom Trbojevic and the Sea Eagles will be hoping the 24-year-old is fit and ready to go yet again after another stunning performance for New South Wales. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs continue to search for their identity and are battling to avoid the wooden spoon alongside Brisbane. However, there will be plenty of motivation for coach Trent Barrett here who comes up against his former team for the first time.

Team news: Canterbury welcome back Corey Allan who takes a spot on the wing and Kyle Flanagan returns to the halves to partner Jake Averillo. Falakiko Manu makes his NRL debut at centre.

No changes for Manly who name the same 17-man squad. Both Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans are set to start following Origin duty.

Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans (Saturday, 8:30am, Sky Sports Arena or Watch NRL)

Corey Thompson is set to make his 100th NRL appearance this weekend

There was plenty of fanfare surrounding these sides coming into the season but after a troubled year so far they remain outside the top eight and struggling for some form. The Raiders sit in 10th place while Gold Coast are on the back of a four-game losing streak and sit four points off the top eight in 13th. Both teams have the attacking talent on hand to get back into NRL finals places but with less than half the season to go a big run will definitely be needed.

Team news: The biggest change for Canberra sees co-captain Jarrod Croker return from a knee injury at centre.

A reprieve for the Titans sees AJ Brimson back from injury to replace Jayden Campbell at full-back. Corey Thompson also marks his comeback from injury to take a place on the wing.

Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys (Saturday, 10:35am, Watch NRL)

Kalyn Ponga is back for Newcastle

Another match up that sees two sides right in the thick of the battle to make the top eight. The Knights have been hot and cold for most of the season and are flirting outside an NRL finals spot in 12th, two points shy of eighth. However, the returns of Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce plus the addition of Jake Clifford in the halves might be just what Newcastle need to make a decent run to end the season. The Cowboys were on a pretty decent run at one point but back-to-back defeats have seen them slide to ninth place so a victory here will be all the more important.

Team news: Kalyn Ponga looks set to finally make his long-awaited return from injury for Newcastle.

No changes for North Queensland who stick with the same 17-man squad that just lost to Cronulla last time out.

Brisbane Broncos v Cronulla Sharks (Sunday, 5am, Watch NRL)

Kotoni Staggs is set to return for Brisbane

The Sharks are on a spectacular run right now, winning their last four games to find themselves in eighth place and certainly in with a shout of a NRL finals place if they keep up the momentum. They can definitely make it five from five here as they take on Brisbane who once again are looking to try and avoid the wooden spoon. The Broncos need a massive boost of confidence and the impending return of Kotoni Staggs may give them the spark they have lacked for most of the season.

Team news: A huge change for Brisbane sees Kotoni Staggs make his big return from a long-injury lay off to take a spot in the centres alongside Herbie Farnworth. TC Robati moves to the second-row and Thomas Flegler shifts to loose forward with Tevita Pangai Junior (suspended) out. Brodie Croft gets another chance at half-back.

No changes for Cronulla who name the same 17-man squad.

Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs (Sunday, 7:05am, Watch NRL)

Adam Doueihi is back for the Tigers

A week’s rest could not have come at a better time for the Tigers as they will have had to think long and hard following their 66-16 defeat to Melbourne in round 15. Their defence did improve towards the end of the game, and they were able to put up three late tries on top of it but the damage had already been done as the Tigers crumbled. It does not get any easier for Michael Maguire’s men as improvement across the board will be needed when they face a South Sydney side led by superstar full-back Latrell Mitchell.

Team news: A couple of changes for the Tigers as Adam Doueihi (head knock) is back at centre and Alex Seyfarth has been promoted from bench to the starting 13.

Hame Sele shifts from the interchange to the Rabbitohs’ front row alongside Mark Nicholls.

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