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3 days ago
Sydney Roosters coach Ricky Stuart is bracing for his side's NRL preliminary final against North Queensland to be played at State of Origin intensity.
Stuart on Thursday also dismissed suggestions the Cowboys' momentum would falter because of their lack of big-match experience in comparison to the Roosters, who have won seven of their past eight finals.
The giant-slaying Cowboys have six players who have played for Queensland - Matt Bowen, Josh Hannay, Paul Bowman, Matt Sing, Nathan Fien and Travis Norton - while Sing and giant New Zealander Paul Rauhihi have experience at international level.
Of the Roosters' starting line-up, only centre Ryan Cross is yet to play Origin or international football.
"I don't know how many Origin players they've got," said Stuart ahead of Sunday's grand final qualifier at Telstra Stadium.
"But an Origin game is going to be as intense and as fast this week so we're not going to fall for this `inexperienced outfit' (argument).
"They're experienced. They've got experienced players there.
"You've only got to look at Rauhihi, he's an international. You look at the representative players they've got, that will help them.
"I don't want to get into a bidding war that we've got more rep players than them, that doesn't worry me.
"One thing we won't be worrying about is that they've got inexperienced players and they're coming down from the north."
The Cowboys have ridden a torrent of emotion and fed off the support of their huge supporter base in notching finals wins over the Bulldogs and Brisbane.
But once again they are massive underdogs against the Roosters, who have won their past eight matches against North Queensland.
However, Stuart said he was certain the Cowboys' momentum would continue this weekend at a ground where they hold a perfect record (two from two).
"I'm pretty confident they will have that momentum. Even if they don't they'll regain it," said Stuart, who told reporters he was confident lock Luke Ricketson (virus) would play.
"They're not a team who will fall over in the first 15 minutes and it's all said and done.
"You don't see too many teams at this stage of the season not get away to a positive start.
"There's a couple of hiccups always - there could be some hiccups our way.
"But you practice those scenarios and if it's not going your way you jump into a different attacking plan and get back on the front foot."
Stuart said the issue of the Roosters being complacent against the Cowboys had not been mentioned this week.
"I can assure you that it won't be an issue," he added.
"We've been lucky in that we've had to put up with a lot of favouritism through the bookmakers and the bookmakers only.
"We've been beaten this year by teams that everyone thought we were going to roll.
"At this stage of the season there wouldn't be an individual who would be overconfident."