Opposing back fives tipped to star in Sunday night showdown

It shapes as a battle of the back five this weekend with the Raiders' formidable outside backs eyeing off Parramatta's equally imposing line-up.

Both sides have won three of their first four to start the season but it’s the backs off the long run which make the round five encounter at GIO Stadium on Sunday evening a mouth-watering one.

The Eels' outside men took it upon themselves to effectively be another forward pack in their win over Cronulla last weekend, racking up 930 of the side's 1909 metres.

Canberra's back five were nearly as impressive in their victory over North Queensland, securing 622 metres out of 1595 in humid conditions in Townsville.

Jordan Rapana, Joey Leilua, Nick Cotric and Jarrod Croker have been one of the strongest running combinations in the NRL in recent seasons and new fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has only added to that reputation in the first month, personally averaging 165 metres from 18.25 runs a game.  

All of the numbers add up to a match-up where the contest could be won and lost in what is one of the biggest tests of the early season for both sides.

"They're going well this year, the whole back five (for the Eels)," Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said.

Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"They're a great strength of the Parra team so it's going to be a good battle to see the five of them up against each other.

"Your back three and back five, they all have a big influence in getting a roll on and big influence on your team and fortunately for our boys we've had that the last years and have given us the ability to build our attack off the back of that."

Joe Tapine (thumb) and Aidan Sezer (oblique strain) underwent fitness tests today in a bid to be fit for Sunday.

If Sezer is right to play, it gives Stuart a selection headache given the form of Sam Williams in the number seven jersey the last fortnight.

"I'm really happy having a player of Aidan's quality who's out, Sam can come back in and do what he's done over the last two weeks," Stuart said.

"That's what makes a strong footy team, we haven’t had depth there for a number of years so what Sam's been able to do the last two weeks has been impressive and a big help to the team."

To earn their fourth win Canberra will have to subdue Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses, who has started this season in sparkling form.

However, Stuart was coy on what his side had up their sleeve for the 24-year-old.

"Mitchell's a good player but all halves are if you get in the NRL at this elite level, they've all got good qualities," he said.

Eels halfback Mitch Moses.
Eels halfback Mitch Moses. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"The halves are the playmakers who have a big bearing on their team so every week halves are put under the pump and under pressure."

Despite enjoying their best start to a season since 2005, Stuart remains grounded knowing the Raiders potential this year is still out there for them to find.

"There's still a lot of game we can improve on and in both halves, we let them (Cowboys in round four) back into the game and made it hard on ourselves in the back end of the game," he said.

"They were probably a little bit worse than us with their retention of the footy, so you can never rely on that.

"We're very good at seizing the opportunity and they're very good at attacking instinctively our players.

"On the back half of that footy I think we were coming home the stronger, but I would prefer to be like that over the whole course of the game not just in the back end or at the start."