Hayne named at five-eighth for Titans
Jarryd Hayne will wear the No.6 jersey in an NRL game for the first time since Round 23, 2013 and his new Titans teammates desperately need him to improve on his winning record when playing five-eighth.
Given how he performed over 52 minutes in his NRL return last Sunday Titans coach Neil Henry had no hesitation in promoting Hayne to the starting team in a match against the Wests Tigers on Saturday which he admits could decide their finals fate.
With Tyrone Roberts sidelined with a knee injury Hayne played the entire second half against the Warriors at five-eighth but has only started there 14 times previously in his 176-game career at the Eels.
Parramatta were victorious on only four occasions when Hayne played at five-eighth but interestingly he has played five-eighth three times against the Tigers for two victories.
Overall he has scored nine tries and won seven of 14 games against the Tigers and Henry is confident that with an extra week at training that he can have a positive influence on the Titans' attack.
"He certainly showed that he's still got it," was Henry's frank appraisal of his first-up effort.
"Now it's a matter of replicating that and fitting in a couple more ballwork sessions and getting a bit more cohesion with the team and hopefully that transfers into an all-round performance.
"Everyone assumes he'll be at fullback but we see no real reason to throw him back there with 'Meady' (David Mead) doing such a good job.
"And with Tyrone out at the moment we don't have a back-up half so I think it's good for him to have his hands on the ball and in the front line.
"He's a go-to that's a real threat carrying the ball so it does put another question to the defensive line.
"We need to make sure we're not relying on Jarryd producing something, we need to be creative around him and play our natural game as well."
The juggling act that Henry must perform if Hayne starts the game is on his interchange bench if there is doubt over whether the former 49er can play the entire 80 minutes in just his second start.
Henry has named a six-man bench that includes Cameron Cullen, Ryan Simpkins and Nathan Friend returning from a hamstring injury.
Cullen is able to cover both hooker and the halves, Simpkins is an option at hooker and in the back row while Friend is an out-and-out No.9 who still must complete some contact work before given the all clear to play.
"We still have options around a rotation there anyway with a bit of versatility on the bench so he mightn't need to play 80 but we'll see how he goes," said Henry, who added that Friend was "a good chance of being available".
"We have a contingency there where if he was to play 60 we could cope with that. I think we can do a rotation that will allow that. We just need to be a bit creative around that and if we have to bring him off early we'll do that.
"There are things we can do – 'Cullo' is the obvious one there - but if 'Friendy' is available we'll have to readdress it."
Including their own 24-14 loss to the Warriors last Sunday every result went against the Titans last weekend, who slipped from seventh on the Telstra Premiership ladder to 10th.
With games to come against the Knights, Panthers and Cowboys, Henry knows the importance of coming away from Campbelltown with two competition points.
"We drop this game we're looking at long odds of making the finals this year," Henry admitted.
"You go from seventh to 10th and up against a team that's won its last three games, great win against the Cowboys at Leichhardt, so they'll be pumped up and up for a big game out there at Campbelltown.
"They've got good speed, they like to play a quick game with a bit of ball movement so it's a good challenge for us at Campbelltown."