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Manly clash ‘could define season’<br><br>They’re firmly entrenched in the top eight but South Sydney coach John Lang has warned that his side could find itself fighting for its finals life should they fall to a second consecutive loss against Manly at Brookvale Oval this weekend.<br><br>The Rabbitohs face a horror run home this season which sees them face both Melbourne and St George Illawarra twice as well as last year’s grand finalists Parramatta and current top-four sides Penrith, Wests Tigers and the Gold Coast.<br><br>And although Lang remains confident in his side’s capabilities, he said that the log-jam of teams fighting for a top-eight berth meant the pressure to stay a step ahead of the crowd was mounting.<br><br>“It’s not getting any easier,” he told today. “We know that we’ve got a pretty tough second half of the season with the Dragons and Melbourne twice and Manly for the second time this weekend.<br><br>“It’s important that we don’t lose momentum because there are a lot of teams close together looking to capitalise if anyone else slips up.<br><br>“But that’s what makes it such a good competition. I see it as a positive, to be honest.”<br><br>The Rabbitohs fell to a 50-22 thumping at the hands of Brisbane last Sunday but will be boosted by the return of key forwards Sam Burgess, Issac Luke and Dave Taylor.<br><br>Burgess arrived back in Sydney on Tuesday after playing in England’s 60-6 thrashing of France last weekend while Taylor returned yesterday following Queensland’s Origin triumph with Lang surprised by how well they’ve pulled up.<br><br>“Dave was back out there yesterday charging around,” Lang said. “He wasn’t even supposed to train but he decided to just get out there – he loves to get his hands on a footy.<br><br>“But we’ve had a light week with the six-day turnaround.<br><br>“A few of the boys were a bit weary at the start of the week so we’ve eased off on them.”<br><br>Lang was an interested spectator on Wednesday night as Queensland thrashed New South Wales to claim their fifth consecutive series win and admitted that some of his players could have some added motivation to perform over the coming weeks should Blues selectors decide to again make significant changes.<br><br>And although he stopped short of suggesting any Rabbitohs should be rushed into the Origin squad, he insisted the likes of John Sutton, Nathan Merritt and Beau Champion would be well equipped to guide NSW into the future.<br><br>“There is no doubt that they’re ready,” he said. “But it’s very difficult for me to comment on who should or shouldn’t be there because I don’t monitor the competition. <br><br>“I probably haven’t seen the Bulldogs, for example, play since we played them seven weeks ago. It’s impossible for me to compare the form of our players compared to their players.<br><br>“Guys like Beau and Nathan and ‘Sutto’ have been playing really well and I’m sure wouldn’t be out of place but I can’t say whether they should be in the NSW side or not.<br><br>“All our guys can do is continue to play as well as they’ve been playing and you tend to find that if the side is going well people will get the rewards from it.”<br><br><b>Late NRL news:</b><br><br>NSW centre <b>Matt Cooper</b> has been ruled out indefinitely after injuring his hamstring during the Blues’ loss to Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night. He will be replaced by impressive youngster <b>Kyle Stanley</b> in the Dragons’ line-up to face Cronulla this Sunday.<br><br>Broncos prop <b>Nick Kenny</b> will return from injury against Penrith tonight but Brisbane will be without both <b>Scott Anderson</b> and <b>Lagi Setu</b> who have withdrawn through injury.<br><br>The Titans have been dealt a double blow ahead of tonight’s clash against Canterbury, with <b>Ashley Harrison</b> and <b>Luke Bailey</b> both rules out with eye and ankle injuries respectively.<br><br>
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