South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters Preview

Thursday, ANZ Stadium, 8:05pm AEDT

Rabbitohs: Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion, Bryson Goodwin, Lote Tuqiri, Dylan Walker, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Issac Luke, Sam Burgess, Chris McQueen, Ben Te’o, John Sutton (c). Interchange: Ben Lowe, Joe Picker, David Tyrrell, Luke Burgess, Joel Reddy, Kyle Turner

Roosters: Anthony Minichiello, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank Paul Nuuausala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Aidan Guerra, Mitchell Aubusson, Dylan Napa, Kane Evans, Kurt Kara

The 2014 NRL season kicks off with a bang on Thursday night when last years’ premiers, the Sydney Roosters, take on the ever-improving South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium. Both teams have shown good form in the pre-season with the Roosters claiming the World Club Challenge with a comfortable victory over the Wigan Warriors while the Rabbitohs were too good for the St George-Illawarra Dragons in the Charity Shield.

On paper, the Roosters have the best team in the NRL with a back line laden with superstars, a solid halves pairing of James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce and a brutal pack led by Kiwi firebrand Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. The Rabbitohs have stars of their own, but they are fewer in number, with Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds, John Sutton and Burgess the players who will define the Rabbitohs’ fortunes in 2014. The man under most pressure in this one is new five eighth Dylan Walker who will play a running game, offering a link between Reynolds and Sutton. Usually a centre,he needs to find a way to acclimatise to his new role and it won’t be easy in front of a big crowd. Rabbitohs’ head coach Michael Maguire has taken a big gamble on Walker, and the young Rabbitoh needs to repay the faith shown in him.

Roosters centre Michael Jennings is in career-best form, coming of a hat trick in the World Club Challenge and if the Roosters pack can give him space he will have too much class for the Rabbitohs outside backs, who look a little frail defensively. Look for Pearce and Maloney to kick early for their wingers and catch Tuqiri and Merritt out of position. This should be a wonderful match, but the Roosters just have too many options in attack and will open 2014 with a win.

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