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Titans v Rabbitohs: Cook, Crichton, Inglis and Gagai all out

From a positive standpoint, the struggling Titans might be refreshed and raring to go after cooling their heels with last week's bye. And from a pessimist's point of view it is out of the frying pan into the fire.

The Titans won just four of 12 games in the first half of the season and trudged into the bye with a 34-14 road loss to the Roosters. Now they get to host a supremely confident Souths side that has rocketed up the charts with five straight wins.

Gold Coast will be hoping Queensland Origin reps Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow aren't too banged up and will be on deck to take on one of the most damaging forward packs in the business.

The Rabbitohs kept on winning last week, overcoming the loss of four Origin players to comfortably beat a Cronulla team that had won six on the trot.

Souths coach Anthony Seibold may choose to rest one or two of those stars this week, knowing he has an enviable stockpile of backs to capably fill any holes at a moment's notice.

Key match-up: Funny how plenty of names were thrown in the ring for NSW spots, but very little was said about Cody Walker. Based on his terrific individual form and how his team is performing, the Nowra-born Walker probably ranks among the top 10 most influential players in the NRL in 2018. If the Titans don't figure out a plan to keep Walker quiet they could very well be in for a long night.

For the Titans to win: Even without four big guns last week, the Bunnies still dominated an in-form Cronulla. The challenge for the Titans is to somehow stop Souths' big forwards, specifically the Burgess brothers after yet another powerful display last week. The truth is that the Titans' best hope is for a complacent Souths to show up.

For the Rabbitohs to win: As mentioned above, the only real worry for coach Anthony Seibold is a potential letdown after a string of impressive wins over top-flight opponents. If the Bunnies are silly enough to take the Titans lightly they deserve to lose. On the flipside if they play the way they have been they could rack up a half-century against a team whose defence has been badly exposed at various times this year.

Titans stat attack: The Titans have not defeated the Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium since 2009 but they have won two of their past three home games and also pushed Cronulla to the limit in a one-point loss at Cbus Super in round eight.

Rabbitohs stat attack: The Rabbitohs have won seven of their past nine clashes with the Titans. They head to the Gold Coast full of confidence on the back of five consecutive wins.

And another thing: It is one of the more fascinating resurrection stories of the season. The form of George and Tom Burgess is one of the main reasons the Rabbitohs are on track for a top-four finish. Since winning the 2014 premiership, the twins have heard more about being overrated underachievers than they have about the good things they did in the early years with the Rabbitohs. This year they have fallen back in love with the game and it shows on the field.

Gold Coast Titans v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Friday 7.55pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 17 Keegan Hipgrave, 13 Jai Arrow

Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Max King, 16 Moeaki Fotuaika, 18 Jack Stockwell

Will Matthews is a late withdrawal from the Gold Coast side, with Keegan Hipgrave to start the match in No.17. Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow will back up after Origin I. From their last-start loss to the Roosters in round 12, Phillip Sami replaces Konrad Hurrell on the wing. Matthews and Morgan Boyle were omitted an hour out from kick-off. Bryce Cartwright and Kane Elgey were the two players left out of the squad 24 hours out from game time.

Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 14 Adam Doueihi, 19 Hymel Hunt, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 18 Robbie Farah, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 15 Cameron Murray, 13 Sam Burgess

Interchange: 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola, 20 Mark Nicholls, 21 Tyrell Fuimaono

Following Thursday's omission of Origin representatives Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai, the Rabbitohs have dropped NSW Blues pair Damien Cook and Angus Crichton from the team an hour before the match. Adam Doueihi (No.14), Hymel Hunt (No.19), Robbie Farah (No.18) and Cameron Murray (No.15) replace the Origin quartet in the starting side. After Dean Britt joined Inglis and Hunt as the three players omitted 24 hours before game time.


Head-to-head: Played 15; Rabbitohs 9 wins, Titans 6 wins
Matches at venue: Played 6; Rabbitohs 4 wins, Titans 2 wins
2017 result: Rabbitohs won 36-20 at ANZ Stadium in round 15
Points per game: Titans 18.2; Rabbitohs 24.6
Points conceded per game: Titans 27.3; Rabbitohs 16.8
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League

Steve Turner's prediction: The Rabbitohs showed last weekend against a top eight side that they're capable of winning without their Origin players. The Titans have the second worse defence in the NRL and this week they come up against the best attack. It will be a struggle for the Gold Coast who and although South Sydney will have four players backing up from Origin, they red and green will be too good. 

Tip: Rabbitohs by 8

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