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PREVIEW: Rd 26, 2017

Words: Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

Fuimaono,T 17052632NH

Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs 
ANZ Stadium
Friday, 7.50pm

The Bunnies will have to overcome a serious form-line discrepancy if they want to challenge the high-flying Eels this Friday night in what will be their final game of 2017.

South Sydney suffered the biggest loss of any team this year when a rampant Storm put them to the sword 64-6 last Saturday while the Eels piled on their best team score in 10 years in a 52-34 romp over the Broncos (incidentally, the last time they passed 50 was against the Broncos – 68-22 back in 2007). 

The fourth-placed Eels also have a mighty carrot in front of them – win and guarantee a top-four finish and with it a guaranteed second weekend in September, denying Cronulla a chance to leapfrog them. 

The Bunnies are playing for nought but pride but that pride will be stinging after last week. Their final game will see Zane Musgrove miss out due to suspension with much of the rest of the team named as it was last week before the game day reshuffle: Sam Burgess at prop, Cody Walker at five-eighth, John Sutton in the back row, Bryson Goodwin at fullback, Robert Jennings on the wing. Dean Britt is the new face on the bench with Musgrove out.

Eels coach Brad Arthur wasn't too impressed with his team's late fade-out that closed the margin of victory, despite the result, and this week gets Manu Ma'u back from suspension which pushed Kenny Edwards to the bench and Frank Pritchard to the reserves where Kaysa Pritchard and Beau Scott have again been named and may yet come into contention in their respective injury comebacks.

It may seem a while ago now after last week's touch-up from Melbourne but the Bunnies have been in good form of late – they had won three straight prior to last week. They'd been scoring plenty of points to, with 26, 28 and 36 points in wins over the Dragons, Bulldogs and Warriors. They've completed at around 80 percent across that three-game run and churned through plenty of metres, averaging close to 1,800 metres per game (around 130 more on average than their opposition). Bear in mind their general Adam Reynolds was concussed inside 10 minutes last week and his return will be pivotal, in particular his controlled kicking game.