NRL Premiership
Late mail: Star Rooster returns, Widdop struggling

Late mail: Star Rooster returns, Widdop struggling

All the latest inside word from around the NRL as a star Rooster returns, the Eels chase a boom Raiders and the Dragons face an injury crisis.

MORE: Lurker's gossip central  | Ask the Lurker - Round 26

Fri: Roosters v Rabbitohs @ Allianz Stadium (7:45pm AEST)

The big news here is that Shaun Kenny-Dowall is expected to make his comeback for the Roosters after taking time out for personal reasons. Watch for Kenny-Dowall to come straight onto the wing for Brendan Elliott, who will drop out of the side. A handy inclusion also for the Roosters with Michael Jennings returning from suspension, which will force Mitchell Aubusson back to the bench in the only change from the side that took care of Manly. Mitchell Pearce remains on ice and is 50-50 for week one of the finals. 

The suspension of Issac Luke until week two of the finals is a bitter blow with Luke's omission seeing Cameron McInnes start at dummy-half. John Sutton (fractured fibula) is gone for the season with Chris McQueen promoted into the starting line-up. Greg Inglis wasn't named and is expected to make his comeback in week one of the finals. 


Sat: Panthers v Knights @ Pepper Stadium (3:00pm AEST)

Jamie Soward (concussion) and Bryce Cartwright (lacerated kidney) have been named, but are little chance of playing in this battle for the wooden spoon. Watch for Tyrone Peachey to slot into the halves, Lewis Brown move from centre to backrow and Dean Whare to be a late inclusion. 

Buoyed by the news that Nathan Brown will take over as head coach of the Knights next season, watch for Newcastle to deliver one last spirited performance for stand-in coach Danny Buderus. Adam Clydesdale (illness) returns forcing Danny Levi out of the squad. 


Dragons v Wests Tigers @ ANZ Stadium (5:30pm AEST)

The big news here is that Gareth Widdop is facing a race against time to play again this season after suffering a potentially serious quad injury. Widdop's omission from Saturday's game will see Drew Hutchinson start in the halves alongside Benji Marshall. Watch for Josh Dugan to takeover the goalkicking from Widdop. The other injury concern for Saints is Joel Thompson (hamstring) who despite not being named, is rated 50 per cent chance of being a late inclusion.


Why would Jason Taylor dare change his winning side? The only slight concern is Aaron Woods who has hardly trained due to a virus this week. 

Cowboys v Titans @ 1300SMILES Stadium (7:30pm AEST)

Unable to drop from third or move higher on the premiership ladder as well, there seems little point in Paul Green playing any of his big guns in this game. There is already mail Johnathan Thurston will be rested, while James Tamou and Matt Scott could use a week off before the finals also. 

Ryan James returns from suspension for the Titans in the only change to the Gold Coast side which upset the Dragons last Sunday. 


Sun: Eels v Raiders @ Pirtek Stadium (2:00pm AEST)

Manu Ma'u is the concern for Eels officials after he suffered a shoulder injury last weekend. Meanwhile, there is still no resolution to Will Hopoate's contract dispute, with the chances of him being at the Eels in 2016 becoming increasingly remote. 


Mitch Cornish has been named to replace the injured Blake Austin which is ironic given the Eels have sounded out Cornish as a potential back-up half for 2016. 


Sharks v Sea Eagles @ Remondis Stadium (4:00pm AEST)

Ben Barba has been named on an extended bench to return from an ankle injury in jumper no19 with Tinirau Arona tipped to make way for the Sharks x-factor. Victory will secure the Sharks a top four berth in what is also Michael Gordon's final home for the Sharks before joinning Parramatta next season. 

Manly are sweating on the fitness of Jamie Lyon (ankle) with a decision to be made on his availablity following the club's captain's run on Saturday. No Willie Mason (suspended) will see Ligi Sao start the match while James Hasson was named on an extended bench only as stand-by for Dunamis Lui, whose wife is pregnant. 

Bulldogs v Warriors @ ANZ Stadium (6:30pm AEST)

It's a timely return for the Bulldogs of Josh Reynolds (knee) given the loss of Trent Hodkinson (wrist) for the remainder of the season. Aiden Tolman (hamstring) is also back which has forced Lloyd Perrett out of the side. 


The Warriors just want the season to end. The return of Ben Matulino (suspension) and Chad Townsend (illness) helps, but Sam Tomkins (knee) is out. 



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