Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has named Tuimoala Lolohea at fullback for their opening round clash against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium. Pre-season speculation suggested it would be Corey Thompson who would get the nod in the custodian role, but he has been named on the wing.
Both David Nofoaluma and Chris McQueen have been dropped from the side for round 1. In their place, Thompson will start at wing and Robbie Rochow is the surprise inclusion to start in the back-row in place of McQueen.
Matt McIlwrick has been demoted to the bench despite a strong 2017 season in the role. Starting in his place is recruit Pita Godinet with fan favourite Benji Marshall to come off the bench.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson has opted for Mitch Cornish to partner Cooper Cronk in the halves, with Luke Keary named on an extended bench for the Tricolours.
The talking point of this match will be the cohesion of the Sydney Roosters with the additions of superstar duo Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco, but can they gel in time? They will face a new-look Tigers side who were busy during the off-season in strengthening their squad. Will it be enough against a Roosters side many see as a premiership winner?
The higher you climb, the harder you fall; that is what the Sydney Roosters will look to avoid as they are expected to perform consistently and finish the season challenging for the minor premiership with a roster of their calibre.
As for the Tigers, they are coming off a disappointing season by their own standards but they do have a fresh set of recruits to call upon and get themselves back in the top eight race. Having recruited more players than any team this off-season, gelling and finding cohesion will be their tallest order.
It has been a barren run for the Tigers against the Roosters in recent years with the joint venture failing to defeat the Tricolours in their last 10 attempts. You have to go back to round 15, 2012, to find the last time the Tigers managed to defeat the Roosters.
ANZ Stadium, Saturday March 10, 4.30pm
Head-to-head: Played 30, Roosters 22 wins, Wests Tigers 8 wins.
Last five games:
- Round 24, 2017: Sydney Roosters def. Wests Tigers 22-18.
- Round 14, 2017; Sydney Roosters def. Wests Tigers 40-18.
- Round 13, 2016; Sydney Roosters def. Wests Tigers 32-18.
- Round 15, 2015; Sydney Roosters def. Wests Tigers 33-8.
- Round 9, 2015; Sydney Roosters def. Wests Tigers 36-4.
2017 points per game: Wests Tigers 17.2; Roosters 20.8.
2017 points conceded per game: Wests Tigers 24.7; Roosters 17.8.
Televised: Live on Fox League
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Mitchell Cornish, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Mitchell Aubusson, 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange: 14 Dylan Napa, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Ryan Matterson, 17 Victor Radley
Reserves: 18 Reece Robinson, 19 Luke Keary, 20 Nat Butcher, 21 Lindsay Collins
Tigers: 1Tuimoala Lolohea, 2 Corey Thompson, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Pita Godinet, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robert Rochow, 13 Elijah Taylor
Interchange: 14 Benji Marshall, 15 Alex Twal, 16 Michael Chee Kam, 17 Matthew Eisenhuth
Reserves: 18 Matt Mcilwrick, 19 David Nofoaluma, 20 Timothy Grant, 21 Taane Milne
Match officials: Main referee: Gavin Badger, Assistant referee: Peter Gough, Touch judges: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Nick Morel.