The Titans will turn to two of the smallest men in their squad in order to combat the massive problem of containing a powerful Parramatta outfit at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.
Riding high in sixth position having won six of their past seven matches, Parramatta will once again turn to a forward pack bursting at the seams to lay the platform for the likes of Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson to wreak havoc.
Given that the Titans have conceded 170 points in their past four games a Parramatta pack boasting Kane Evans, Junior Paulo, Nathan Brown and Manu Ma’u will be pushing each other out of the way to take a carry, with back-up coming from Peni Terepo, Daniel Alvaro and Marata Niukore.
Containing a team currently fourth in total run metres and third in offloads is a daunting proposition and senior coach Craig Hodges said the Titans will rely on hooker Mitch Rein and Nathan Peats to quell any Eels momentum before it can get going.
Titans v Eels - Round 22
“It sounds a bit funny when you talk about taking on their biggest guys but it’s our smaller guys,” Hodges said of the players to lead an aggressive defensive line.
“Mitch Rein will get into that, Nathan Peats will certainly add to that. They’re energetic, competitive little buggers that want to get into the legs of those big guys and annoy the hell out of them.
“Jai Arrow, Moe Fotuaika, Jai Whitbread, that’s their bread and butter and they’ll need to do it collectively but I’d be expecting Mitch Rein and Nathan Peats to lead that energetic side of things.
“You need to get up and take time and space away from them.
“I don’t think they’re an opposition that you can sit back on your heels and wait for them to come at you and think that you’re going to hold them off.
“We’re going to be a bit smaller and more mobile so we certainly need to take time and space away from them and not let them get wound up.”
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Staring down the barrel of an eighth loss on the trot and all but assured of the wooden spoon, Titans players have been subjected to attacks on social media that Hodges described as “quite vicious”.
Although it is yet to transfer onto the field on game day, Hodges is adamant that the work that has been done the past month will soon deliver significant improvement.
“We’re four weeks into it now and it normally takes a few weeks for it to transition over into performance,” he explained.
“We’re certainly getting ourselves up toward NRL standard.
“Rugby league’s a game of habits and at training you create the habits that you take into a game.
“Habits don’t get created overnight; it takes days and weeks of continuous effort.
“They’ve probably picked up some bad habits over the course of the year. We had a 12-week pre-season and 18 weeks into the season when we changed so some of those habits are ingrained.
“It’s late in the year to change those things and it’s not easy to change those things but I cannot fault the effort of the playing group in trying to change it.
“That’s why, a month into it, I’m getting more confident that we’ll see some of those better qualities start to come through and hopefully we’ll get a result on the back of that.”