The emergence of Braidon Burns convinced new South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett to shift captain Greg Inglis from left centre in a move that gives the Rabbitohs arguably the NRL’s strongest right-edge combination.
While the switch ensures a head-to-head match-up between Inglis and Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell in Friday night’s season opener against Sydney Roosters at the SCG, Bennett revealed the real reason the South Sydney skipper would play between Sam Burgess and Dane Gagai on the right edge was to accommodate Burns.
"I’ve got a young player in Burns who needs more football, and I think he is more suited to the left hand side than he is to the right-hand side,” Bennett said of the 22-year-old who made five NRL appearances for Souths last season.
“He has trained there all pre-season and GI is pretty flexible about where he can play so that is pretty much the reason he is on the right. The other young fellow will get an opportunity on the left and hopefully can play the season for us there. I think he can, but he just needs playing time.”
Inglis has only taken part in in three ballwork sessions with his Souths teammates but Bennett was confident he had overcome a knee injury which restricted him during the off-season and would be able to handle Mitchell, a key member of the Roosters' 2018 premiership winning team.
"What do you want - to put him on the bench and put him in cotton wool. Why wouldn’t he be up to it," Bennett said. "He is one of the great players of our game so I am quite sure he is confident in himself. He wouldn’t be there if he wasn’t and we have no reason to think he can’t get the job done.
"He hasn’t had the training load that other players have had, but he is playing in the centres so I think he can manage it, and he is a 15-year veteran in the game. These guys know what is going on, they know how to get the job done, we aren’t talking about someone who has never played before.
"He won’t blow anybody apart tomorrow night, he is starting his first game. He has had a long lay-off but he will get his job done, we are confident of that."
Inglis’s switch has forced Gagai from the centre to the wing, where he played for Australia during last year’s end-of-season Tests against New Zealand and Tonga, while Bennett believes Burgess can be more effective at right second-row than in the middle.
"I think Sam can give a lot more value to us there," Bennett said. "He is an aggressive player and his aggression won’t be wasted out there.
"We can target a few players I think he can get at with his carries. He is not easy to tackle. It is a lot easier in the middle when you have got three guys around you all the time but out there you have opportunities one on one and that type of stuff so I just thought he could give us more strike power."
The match will be Bennett’s first visit to the SCG as a Telstra Premiership coach since guiding St George Illawarra to a 19-12 defeat of the Roosters in 2010.
New Roosters winger Brett Morris was a member of the Dragons team on that occasion and Bennett identified him as a danger man on Friday night after scoring a hat-trick of tries in last month’s World Club Challenge defeat of Wigan.
Bennett recalled how he had dropped Morris to play for Shellharbour, who were St George Illawarra’s feeder team, for the opening round of the 2009 season and by the end of the year he was playing for Australia.
Morris starred for the Dragons in their 2010 grand final winning team under Bennett and joined Canterbury in 2015 to play alongside twin Josh.