SUNDAY SPECIALS | Two tight tussles for NRL Sunday - Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders flexing th...
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The Warriors host the Gold Coast at 6:30pm AEST on Friday night and they'll welcome back lock Micheal Luck and prop Sam Rapira for the vital clash. After a mid-season run which rose them to the edge of the top-four, the Auckland-based club has not won a game since mid-May prior to their first bye. Rookie halfback Shaun Johnson and young fullback Kevin Locke both return to the side looking for a major turnaround. The Titans are languishing in last place and will take Origin representatives Ashley Harrison (lock) and Greg Bird (bench) across the ditch in an 18-man squad. Clinton Toopi will play his 150th match for the Gold Coast side against his former club. The Titans will also take returning five-eighth Mat Rogers across the Tasman, however he has not been named in the lineup today.
Back in Australia, the Parramatta Eels have a host of players returning from injury and rep duty for their Friday night clash with the Wests Tigers. Jarryd Hayne, Tim Mannah (both NSW), along with Jeff Robson and Ryan Morgan (both injured) have been named in a 17-man lineup. Reni Maitua maintains a place on the bench while Ben Smith has been shifted from second-row to centre to cover for the injured Jacob Loko. The Tigers, surprisingly, have not named Benji Marshall despite the Kiwi international being reported to be returning from injury this week which he sustained in the side's Round 15 clash with the Storm. There is good news for the Tigers with Chris Lawrence named to make his return in the centres, while Todd Payten will return off the bench. Jacob Miller retains the number six jersey with Marshall still injured.
We move to Saturday where the Sharks will welcome back Captain Courageous Paul Gallen for their clash with the Raiders in an otherwise unchanged lineup from the side that destroyed South Sydney at the weekend. Canberra, meanwhile, have bought Sam Mataora into the interchange bench to cover for the season-ending injury to former Blues forward Tom Learoyd-Lahrs. Josh Dugan, Danny Galea, Matt Orford, David Shillington and Terry Campese all remain unavailable through injury.
The NRL heads to Adelaide on Saturday night when Canterbury takes a home game to the South Australian capital. Michael Ennis returns at hooker for the 'Dogs at the expense of Ben Roberts, while experienced forward Michael Hodgson makes way for rookie prop Martin Taupau, with Sam Kasiano moving into the starting side. Their opponents Melbourne have named all of their State of Origin representatives, with the only notable omission from their extended 20-man squad being lock Todd Lowrie, who has succumbed to a calf complaint.
Sunday afternoon sees the Roosters welcome the return of Blues fullback Anthony Minichiello and halfback Mitchell Pearce for their SFS clash against Penrith, although they will need to keep an eye on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves after he sustained an injury in last night's loss to Canberra. Penrith are unchanged from the side which took apart Canterbury on Saturday evening, choosing not to name State of Origin representatives Luke Lewis, Petero Civoniceva and Michael Jennings.
Manly's return home to Brookvale sees them without centre Steve Matai, with Michael Oldfield replacing him in the centres. There also remains a question mark over David Williams, who missed part of the Sea Eagles' loss to the Dragons a fortnight ago. The Rabbitohs' lineup includes Greg Inglis (Origin duty) and Ben Lowe (injury), the latter of whom has recently re-committed himself to the club until 2014.
Monday Night Football heads up the F3 to Newcastle, where the Knights will excitedly welcome back Kurt Gidley and Jarrod Mullen in the halves, while young duo Ryan Stig and Tyrone Roberts will stay in the squad on an extended bench. Willie Tonga is back for the Cowboys in place of Ben Jones, while Cory Paterson has been named in the 18-man squad.
All the teams for NRL Round 18, plus NSW Cup, Toyota Cup and QRL Intrust Super Cup are HERE.