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2021 NRL Round 18 Preview, Rabbitohs Vs Bulldogs

Brendan Wood previews the clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Sunday night. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Date: 18/07, Time: 6:15pm

Rabbitohs Team

1. Latrell Mitchell
2. Alex Johnston
3. Dane Gagai
4. Campbell Graham
5. Taane Milne
6. Cody Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Thomas Burgess
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jaydn Su’A
13. Cameron Murray
14. Benji Marshall
15. Liam Knight
16. Patrick Mago
17. Jacob Host
18. Braidon Burns
19. Jed Cartwright
20. Blake Taaffe
21. Peter Mamouzelos
22. Jaxson Paulo
23. Josh Mansour
23. Patrick Mago

Team Changes

IN: Cameron Murray, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai, Jaxson Paulo, Jed Cartwright, Latrell Mitchell
OUT: Hame Sele

Bulldogs Team

1. Nick Meaney
2. Corey Allan
3. Will Hopoate
4. Aaron Schoupp
5. Falakiko Manu
6. Lachlan Lewis
7. Jake Avarillo
8. Jack Hetherington
9. Sione Katoa
10. Luke Thompson
11. Corey Waddell
12. Josh Jackson
13. Renouf Atoni
14. Bailey Biondi-Odo
15. Dylan Napa
16. Ava Seumanufagai
17. Joe Stimson
19. Kyle Flanagan
20. Ofahiki Ogden
21. Matt Doorey
22. Jayden Okunbor

Team Changes

IN: Ava Seumanufagai, Jayden Okunbor, Kyle Flanagan, Matt Doorey
OUT: Jackson Topine

Referee: Ben Cummins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

South Sydney Rabbitohs

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The Rabbitohs will be hoping to welcome back their Origin stars for this clash. With a four-day turnaround, it may come down to how well each player navigates the game on Wednesday night as to whether they back-up or not. As a result of this uncertainty the Bunnies have named a 23-man squad. As for their form, their attack was sizzling as they recorded a big 46-18 win over the Cowboys last week with their Origin stars missing. Alex Johnston and Taane Milne each scoring hat-tricks.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

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As for the Bulldogs, they welcome back Ava Seumanufagai who starts from the bench. Jackson Topine drops out of the side and is replaced in the second row by Josh Jackson. Renouf Atoni starts at lock in his place. Despite going down to the Roosters last week 22-16 in wet conditions, they will be feeling confident in their ability to hang in the contest with a top eight side. They’ll need to produce a similar performance this week if they hope to slow down the high-flying Rabbitohs attack.

PREVIEW

In a week that has seen all NSW teams move north to QLD to escape the COVID-19 outbreak, the change in venue won’t change the fact this game is shaping up as one of the more lop-sided score lines of the round. With the Rabbitohs attack surging to near record heights in recent weeks, it’s hard to believe the Bulldogs can go with them for 80 minutes on a clear Gold Coast night.

The biggest factor in the recent attacking success the Rabbitohs have experienced is the connection between Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker in the halves. The way these two combine on both sides of the field makes it difficult to predict and read just which side of the field Souths will strike. Surprisingly the right-edge was prominent early last week.

However, the traditional left-edge attack they do so well will be on show once again, and Alex Johnston has another good opportunity to score a hat-trick. With 22 tries in 16 games, he may already have the Ken Irvine Medal in the bag for top try scoring honours.

On the flip side, the Bulldogs will be hoping a late shower comes across Cbus Super Stadium to give them an assist in slowing this game down. When they went toe-to-toe with the Roosters last week and held their own, it was in wet conditions and they were able to play the game at their pace and really get into the forward grind.

Halves Jake Averillo and Lachlan Lewis will play a big part in making sure they finish off their sets in good position. They’ll also be hoping the likes of Cameron Murray and Damien Cook don’t back-up from Origin, as these two are a big reason the Rabbitohs are able to dictate the speed of the play-the-ball.

KEY STAT

This will be the second meeting this year between these sides. Back in round four, the Rabbitohs shut out the Bulldogs 38-0. However in overall head-to-head matchups the Bulldogs hold the advantage, winning 23 of the 41 meetings between the sides since 1998.

As for individual stats, Alex Johnston leads the league in both tries (22) and linebreaks (30), while Cody Walker leads the league in both try assists (21) and linebreak assists (26).

PREDICTION

Even if their Origin stars don’t back-up, South Sydney should be too strong in this one. Rabbitohs by 22.

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