NRL Preview: Thompson to return, Farnworth out injured & Ponga boosts Knights

England international Luke Thompson is set to return for Canterbury Bulldogs this weekend as we preview every game in the NRL.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos (Thursday, 10:50am, Sky Sports Arena)

Benji Marshall will start for the Rabbitohs

The Rabbitohs come into this one after a comfortable win over Canterbury last week and will have every opportunity to extend their win streak to four games as they now take on a Brisbane side that were put to the sword by Melbourne in round four. The Broncos may have recorded their first win in 259 days in round three but were brought back down to earth against the Storm and will need to put in a very strong performance here as South Sydney look to show their title credentials.

Team news: Cody Walker (suspended) is out for Souths so Benji Marshall starts at stand-off. Jacob Host returns with Keaon Koloamatangi (suspended) also out.

No Herbie Farnworth (shoulder) for Brisbane so Richie Kennar is in at centre. Tevita Pangai Junior starts at lock with Patrick Carrigan suspended.

New Zealand Warriors v Manly Sea Eagles (Friday, 9am)

The Warriors will be without star prop Addin Fonua-Blake this week

The Warriors have past results on their side here as they won both clashes against Manly in 2020 and have every chance to do that again as they face a side low on confidence after failing to record a single win so far this season. The Warriors have won two and lost two this season and have shown glimpses of the exciting rugby that many were expecting at the start of the year.

Team news: Leeson Ah Mau starts at prop with Addin Fonua-Blake (knee) out for the Warriors.

Morgan Harper is the new man at centre for Manly while Jack Gosiewski comes into the second-row for the injured Morgan Boyle.

Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders (Friday, 10:55am, Sky Sports Arena)

Ryan Sutton will start in Canberra’s front-row alongside Josh Papalii

A contender for game of the round sees an undefeated Penrith side take on a well organised and tough Canberra team. The Panthers lay claim to top spot on points difference and have been on fine form since the start of the year, giving up only 16 points in four games whiles scoring 110. The Raiders have won three of four to start the year with the only hiccup being that of the comeback loss to the Warriors. Despite this, the Raiders again continue to look like one of the top sides in the league and can make a big statement with a win here.

Team news: No changes for Penrith who stick with the same 17-man squad.

Joe Tapine’s return at loose forward gives Canberra a boost while Ryan Sutton and Josh Papalii are the preferred front-row pairing.

Gold Coast Titans v Newcastle Knights (Saturday, 6am)

The Knights have been boosted by the return of Kalyn Ponga

The Titans still look to be finding their way in terms of playmaking but even still they have shown flashes of the side that many were expecting to have a big year. The likes of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and David Fifita have proven to be top quality acquisitions. After the loss to Canberra last week, they have a chance to get back to winning ways as they face a Newcastle side that suffered some key injuries in the defeat to St George Illawarra. The Knights started the season quite brightly but have lost their last two with injuries hampering their progress.

Team news: Brian Kelly is back at centre for the Titans while Phillip Sami moves onto the wing for the injured Anthony Don.

A massive boost for Newcastle sees Ponga return from injury at full-back. Blake Green starts at half-back with Mitchell Pearce (pectoral) set to be out for 10-12 weeks. Tex Hoy (hamstring) is also out, and Connor Watson starts at stand-off. David Klemmer is named despite suffering a knee injury last week.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm (Saturday, 8:30am)

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is back for the Bulldogs this week

It has certainly been a tough start to life for Canterbury under new coach Trent Barrett as they still search for their first win of the season with their attack looking to find some chemistry after not recording a single point in their last three games. It does not get any easier for the Bulldogs now either as they face a Melbourne side fresh off a more than convincing win over Brisbane. The Storm have had a stuttered start to the season but looked every bit like the reigning champions in the win over the Broncos, with Ryan Papenhuyzen proving to be their star man this year with some outstanding displays.

Team news: Dallin Watene- Zelezniak, Josh Jackson and Luke Thompson return from suspension for Canterbury. Jake Averillo reverts to stand-off with Lachlan Lewis (head knock) out.

Harry Grant nears a return for Melbourne after being named on the extended bench outside the main 17. Felise Kaufusi is back from suspension in the second-row.

Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks (Saturday, 10:35am)

Leeds-born half-back Sam Walker made his NRL debut for the Roosters last week

Despite the season-ending injury to key man Luke Keary, the Roosters proved they still have what it takes to be true title contenders this year after a convincing win over the Warriors. The likes of James Tedesco and Brett Morris have been their difference makers while Sam Walker’s outstanding debut in the halves yield plenty of positives going forward. They now take on an in-form Cronulla side who will have a great deal of confidence following a 48-10 win over the Cowboys, however, this match-up obviously proves to be a much harder test.

Team news: No changes for Sydney who name the same 17-man squad as last week.

Connor Tracey reverts to the interchange for the Sharks as Jesse Ramien is back at centre after serving his suspension.

Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys (Sunday, 7:05am)

Jason Taumalolo is back for the Cowboys this week

The Cowboys are one of three teams without a win this year and will need to be much assured defensively if they want any chance to change that after conceding 141 points in their first four games. However, coach Todd Payten comes up against his former Tigers side with whom he won the 2005 NRL title with as a player and the opportunity to put one over his former side is right there for the taking. The Tigers have not had the best start themselves but can take some confidence away from the loss to Parramatta as they gave the Eels a slight scare.

Team news: Asu Kepaoa drops out as Moses Mbye is named at centre for the Tigers while Michael Chee-Kam is the new face on the bench.

A huge sigh of relief for the Cowboys sees talisman Jason Taumalolo named to return at loose forward. Kyle Feldt is back on the wing while Justin O’Neill (head knock) sits out.

Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons (Sunday, 9:15am)

Jack Bird returns for the Dragons this week

The Eels strong start to the season continued Easter Monday after a 36-22 win over the Tigers while the Dragons look a much-improved outfit this year as they sit in sixth with three wins to their name. This could prove to be an intriguing fixture with both teams not seeing defeat since the first round of the season, but the added edge of Parramatta at their Bankwest Stadium fortress could be a decisive factor.

Team news: Ryan Matterson starts for Parramatta after missing last week’s game due to a head knock. Bryce Cartwright also looks set to make his debut off the bench.

One major change for the Dragons sees Jack Bird return at centre after a one-game suspension.

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