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Melbourne v St George Illawarra at AAMI Park, Friday night, 7.35pm

Roving Englishman Gareth Widdop will deputise for injured halfback Cooper Cronk in Friday night’s much-anticipated clash against St George Illawarra. In his short NRL career Widdop has already played fullback, centre and five-eighth. Centre Maurice Blair shifts to five-eighth allowing Beau Champion to make his return to the starting line-up. Mark Gasnier returns from a hip flexor injury for the Dragons.

IN: Beau Champion, Ryan Hinchcliffe
OUT: Justin O’Neill, Cooper Cronk

St George Illawarra
IN: Mark Gasnier
OUT: Kyle Stanley

Souths v North Queensland at ANZ Stadium, Friday night, 7.35pm

North Queensland are expected to field one of their strongest line-ups of the season for Friday night’s key clash with South Sydney. The return of hooker Aaron Payne means back-rower Cory Paterson drops out of the 17. The Rabbitohs remain unchanged.


North Queensland
IN: Aaron Payne
OUT: Cory Paterson

Gold Coast v Canberra at Skilled Park, Saturday night, 5.30pm

The struggling Gold Coast Titans receive a timely boost this week with the return of former Test forward Anthony Laffranchi, who missed last weekend’s clash with Melbourne with a corked thigh. Desperate to avoid their first wooden spoon, the Titans will face a Canberra side weakened by the loss of fullback Josh Dugan (groin) and prop Josh Miller (collarbone). Their places have been taken by David Milne and Josh Miller while a newcomer, 22-year-old second-rower Jarrad Kennedy has been named on an extended bench. Kennedy scored a golden point try to secure victory for the Raiders over Brisbane in the inaugural Toyota Cup grand final in 2008.

Gold Coast
IN: Anthony Laffranchi
OUT: Clinton Toopi

IN: David Milne, Joe Picker
OUT: Josh Dugan, Josh Miller

Penrith v Warriors at Centrebet Stadium, Saturday night, 7.30pm

After his false start in Round 23, Michael Jennings is due to play his first game at fullback for the Panthers in Saturday night’s home game against the Warriors. Travis Burns has recovered from a broken hand and will resume at five-eighth meaning rookies Harry Siejka and Ryan Walker drop back to NSW Cup. The Warriors have named Lance Hohaia and Elijah Taylor on interchange for Pita Godinet (NSW Cup) and Ukuma Ta’ai (facing suspension).

IN: Michael Jennings, Travis Burns
OUT: Ryan Walker, Harry Siejka

IN: Lance Hohaia, Elijah Taylor
OUT: Pita Godinet, Ukuma Ta'ai

Sydney Roosters v Cronulla at Sydney Football Stadium, Saturday night, 7.30pm

The Sydney Roosters will be strengthened for their home clash with Cronulla this Saturday night with centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall to return after missing his team’s 20-12 win over St George Illawarra last Sunday with a groin injury. Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has made four changes to his team beaten 19-12 by Canterbury on Monday night. Second-rower Jayson Bukuya will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury, while centre Ben Pomeroy and winger Ricky Leutele have both been dropped and prop Josh Cordoba has been named 18th man.

Sydney Roosters
IN: Shaun Kenny-Dowall
OUT: Kane Linnett

IN: Isaac Gordon, Matthew Wright, Jonathan Mannah, Tyson Frizell
OUT: Ben Pomeroy, Ricky Leutele, Jayson Bukuya, Josh Cordoba

Manly v Canterbury at Brookvale Oval, Sunday, 2pm

Second-placed Manly have enough depth in their three-quarters that they can replace injured State of Origin winger William Hopoate (hamstring) with international David Williams. Hooker Joel Romelo returns after serving a one-game suspension for Canterbury, while prop Chris Armit replaces Mickey Paea on the bench.

IN: David Williams
OUT: William Hopoate

IN: Chris Armit, Joel Romelo
OUT: Trent Cutler, Mickey Paea

Wests Tigers v Parramatta at Sydney Football Stadium, Sunday, 3pm

Wests Tigers have given winger Lote Tuqiri another week to recover from a quadriceps injury while centre Chris Lawrence (hamstring) is not expected back until the first week of the finals. The Tigers and Parramatta have both named unchanged line-ups for Sunday’s clash at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Wests Tigers


Newcastle v Brisbane at Ausgrid Stadium, Monday night, 7pm

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin has erred on the side of caution in relation to injuries to winger Jharal Yow Yeh (ankle) and prop Ben Hannant (hip) and has omitted both players from the team to face Newcastle at Ausgrid Stadium on Monday night. Utility Matt Hilder returns from a foot injury for the Knights.

IN: Matt Hilder
OUT: Keith Lulia