Rabbitohs into the Grand Final after thumping Sea Eagles
13 mins ago | Sam Bourke
Once again, the Roosters will have their depth tested on Saturday night as they look to push towards an unlikely top-four berth.
Josh Morris was the latest to go down, succumbing to a hamstring issue and will be replaced by new recruit Dale Copley.
In a welcome boost though prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is free to play after being found not guilty at the judiciary.
The Roosters have been written off all year but continue to push on, scoring a 28-0 win over the Eels in their last start.
Trent Robinson's men made an error-riddled start to that game but Parramatta also struggled with its completion rate early and crucially the Roosters were able to capitalise.
This time around they have a far sterner task in the form of a desperate Panthers side.
Penrith was handed a reality check last week in a 37-10 defeat to Melbourne. No-one was expecting the undermanned Panthers to really test the Storm last week but even with their absences six tries conceded is simply not good enough. Coach Ivan Cleary said just as much post-game.
Fortunately for Penrith the cavalry return this week with Apisai Koroisau and Isaah Yeo named while Tevita Pangai Jr is set to make his club debut off the bench.
Nathan Cleary is also a chance of making a comeback after being included on the extended bench.
Stephen Crichton though will be sidelined due to suspension with Paul Momirovski recalled to first grade in his place.
Robert Jennings, meanwhile, has been dropped after a poor outing against the Storm with Kurt Capewell shifting to the centres and Brent Naden to the wing.
If Cleary plays though Matt Burton will take Capewell's spot with Matt Eisenhuth likely the man to drop out. Young gun Taylan May could also be in line for a debut if Cleary is simply playing ducks and drakes by naming Capewell at centre.
Last meeting: Round 15 2021 - Panthers 38 Roosters 12
Who to watch: The Roosters are fortunate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is available to play this week as he shapes as their best hope of sticking it to a monster Panthers pack. Even without James Fisher-Harris, Penrith boast an impactful forward rotation only boosted by the inclusion of Pangai Jr. Waerea-Hargreaves though has taken on an increased leadership role in the Roosters side and pushed himself to play extra minutes when needed as the club battled an injury crisis. If Cleary does play look out for the Roosters prop to put plenty of pressure on the halfback in his first game back.
All eyes will be on the Panthers bench to see when coach Cleary injects late-season recruit Tevita Pangai Jr. Yes, there are question marks over Pangai Jr's fit in the Penrith squad and whether the club risks upsetting team unity but for the moment that is just speculation. All we can go off is on-field results and Pangai Jr adds plenty. As the league's most prolific offloading machine he will only make the Panthers a tougher unit to handle as the game drags on. He also has the streak of aggression needed to take it to Waerea-Hargreaves.
The favourite: The returning troops see Penrith strong favourites here.
My tip: The Roosters have a habit of proving doubters wrong and they may well do it again here. Even still though, it is too hard to tip against Penrith given the quality of the calvary it is welcoming back. Penrith by 18.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Adam Keighran 12. Sitili Tupouniua 4. Joseph Manu 6. Drew Hutchison 7. Sam Walker 10. Isaac Liu 9. Sam Verrills 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Angus Crichton 15. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 14. Lachlan Lam 16. Egan Butcher 19. Fletcher Baker 5. Dale Copley
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Charlie Staines 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Kurt Capewell 19. Taylan May 6. Matt Burton 7. Jarome Luai 8. Moses Leota 9. Apisai Koroisau 17. Matthew Eisenhuth 11. Viliame Kikau 10. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 12. Scott Sorensen 14. Mitch Kenny 16. Spencer Leniu 18. Izack Tago 20. J'maine Hopgood
Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Phil Henderson, Matt Noyen; Video Referees: Henry Perenara;