PREVIEW: Rd 24, 2017
Sitting next to each other on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder after 23 Rounds, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Warriors meet this Friday in a battle to try and restore some pride in what has been an underwhelming 2017.
The Rabbitohs come off a convincing 28-14 defeat of the Canterbury Bulldogs, their second win on the hop, while the Warriors crashed to a sixth-consecutive defeat in copping a 36-16 hammering against the Canberra Raiders last week.
After his surprise benching last week, Angus Crichton returns to the back row, with captain Sam Burgess shifting to prop.
Zane Musgrove will play from the bench in an otherwise settled line up for coach Michael Maguire.
For the Warriors, Stephen Kearney has shifted Mason Lino back to the reserves, with Ata Hingano to start in the No.7 jersey alongside Kieran Foran, who was a late withdrawal last week with a shoulder complaint.
A suspension to Ben Matulino stretches the Warriors' forward resources even further this week, with Sam Lisone to start in his place and Charlie Gubb coming onto the bench.
One thing the Rabbiohs have right now is genuine attacking strike, and it's all through their team. At the back Alex Johnston can't stop scoring, with four tries in his last three games and a strike rate of almost one a game this season, while both he and five-eighth Cody Walker sit in the NRL's top 10 for line breaks made.
Over the last three weeks the Rabbitohs have made a combined 14 line breaks and averaged 24 points per game. The Warriors' defence is in for a test.
They were soundly beaten last up, but the Warriors showed enough against Canberra to suggest there's some quality football left in them.
Last week the Kiwi outfit completed at 84 per cent, the third-best rate among all teams in Round 23, gave away the fewest penalties and had the second-highest metres run, averaging 49 per set.
If they can make a positive start and build some belief, the Warriors are capable of troubling us.