Rabbitohs v Dragons preview

Rabbitohs v Dragons
ANZ Stadium
Monday 7pm

When there is life there's hope. At least that's what the Dragons will be telling themselves this week.

With a new coach at the helm in Paul McGregor following Steve Price's fall from grace, Benji Marshall further settled and the squad (bar NSW interchange player Trent Merrin) having last weekend off to freshen up, the Dragons should be competitive at the very least as they look to bounce back from their 36-0 shutout against the Eels in Round 10.

While the Rabbitohs have won four of their past five matches against the Dragons, the Red V will take some solace from their golden point victory against the Bunnies in Round 19 last year. Down 18-6 with 10 minutes remaining, the Dragons clawed their way back and scored a remarkable 22-18 victory in one of their only bright spots from last season.

The Rabbitohs will have to tread carefully around the Dragons despite shutting out wooden spoon candidates the Sharks 18-0 last Monday night. Having displayed the occasional slip-up this season, the Rabbitohs will be searching for some much-needed consistency in an attempt to inject fear back into their opponents.

With five days between Origin and this fixture, expect to see Queensland trio Ben Te'o, Chris McQueen and Greg Inglis line up for the Rabbitohs as they replace Ben Lowe, Joe Picker and Nathan Merritt respectively.

For the Dragons, the loss of Brett Morris with a damaged shoulder on Wednesday is a massive blow, though it is offset by the return of their other international winger Jason Nightingale, who returns from a knee injury sustained in the Trans-Tasman Test. McGregor has a few options when it comes to re-jigging his backline, with Peter Mata'utia able to shift to the wing to cover Morris, while gun fullback Josh Dugan has been touted for a move to the centres. Leeson Ah Mau swaps with Ben Creagh from prop to second-row while Dan Hunt and Tyson Frizell swap between the bench and the starting line-up.

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Watch Out Rabbitohs: With the Dragons banking a bye last weekend it undoubtedly gave Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall time to practice their halves pairing. With Widdop failing to have a steady partner in the No.7 since he arrived in Sydney, the signing of Marshall will do the English international the world of good as he looks to build on his eight try assists and seven line break assists produced thus far in 2014.

With the well-publicised dumping of Dragons coach Steve Price occurring last Monday morning, new coach Paul McGregor will bring in a whole different attitude to the struggling Dragons as they look to break their three-game losing streak. One of the first things on his agenda has to be the Red V's failure to capitalise on opportunities - in their last fixture they spent 52 minutes in the Eels' half and failed to score a single point.

Watch Out Dragons: Young Dylan Walker has taken his game to another level since moving back to his preferred centre position earlier in the year. This was demonstrated last weekend when he made the most of Joel Reddy's lead-up work to race away and set up Souths' second try of the evening. He is fast becoming a key component of Souths' attack as his average 88.2 metres per game continues to grow.

With the return of Tom Burgess to the NRL last Monday (albeit at the expense of older brother Luke), the Burgess clan racked up a phenomenal work rate with 417 metres and 64 tackles between them. This grunt will be needed against a Dragons forward pack keen to brush their 'soft' tag.

Plays To Watch: Sometimes simple is all that's needed. A hole-run, for example, can provide something prosperous. When Adam Reynolds put Sam Burgess through a gap in the Sharks' weak defence with a straightforward overs play last Monday night, the big lock was able to cross for his team's first try.

What wasn't so simple, however, was the Dragons' best chance at getting on the scoreboard against the Eels in Round 10. Benji Marshall received the ball from dummy-half, then threw a cut-out to centre Gerard Beale. Sucking in the winger and centre, Beale threw it back under to Brett Morris who offloaded the ball back under (again) towards the short side to Gareth Widdop, who put in a kick that resulted in a goal-line dropout. More like that and the Dragons might just score a point this week.

Where It Will Be Won: This one will come down to a forward's battle. While the Dragons have been labelled soft in recent weeks, the likes of Merrin, Jack de Belin, Dan Hunt and Tyson Frizell will definitely be willing to put their hand up and prove their worth for the new coach and allow Benji and Widdop some room.

While Souths are known to intimidate teams with their huge forwards, they have been lacking a bit this season and this is the predominant cause of their indifferent form. Without Souths' forwards laying the platform Reynolds, John Sutton and Walker (when he was playing five-eighth) have struggled. This game will be a whitewash if one of these forward packs don't lift.

The History: Played 22; Rabbitohs 7, Dragons 15. While history may appear to be against the Rabbitohs, the boys from Redfern have the edge over the Dragons in recent times, having won four of their past five games against the Red V (not including Charity Shield fixtures). These teams met in Round 5 when the Rabbitohs snapped a three-game losing streak with a dominant 26-6 victory at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground.

Match Officials: Referee – Shayne Hayne; Assistant Referee – Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Nick Beashel; Video Referees – Steve Chiddy & Luke Patten.

Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live 7pm.

The Way We See It: If the Rabbitohs' Queensland Origin trio are fit and ready to go then the Rabbitohs will prove too good for the Dragons. Marshall and Widdop won't be totally comfortable with each other's games for another few weeks and with Reynolds and Sutton unhappy about their Origin brushing and playing behind their behemoth forward pack, they should be too strong. Rabbitohs by 8 points.