Roosters v Rabbitohs preview

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Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs Thursday 7:50pm at Allianz Stadium

Storied rivals looking to springboard their seasons.

Premiership favourites on paper, the Roosters have endured a patchy start to the 2018 season, picking up three wins from five to sit in the top eight. They haven't been what you'd call convincing - while their wins have all been by 13+, their losses have come largely as a shock, with the Tigers out-grinding them in Round 1 and the Warriors thumping them just a fortnight ago. They looked to be hitting their straps last Friday when they soundly beat Cronulla, but whether they can maintain the rage is another matter.

The Bunnies on the other hand - the expectations have been somewhat lower. While boosted this season by the return of Greg Inglis from long-term injury, their start has been reasonably tumultuous as well. After losing their opening fortnight of matches, the Rabbitohs picked up two wins on the bounce in the lead-up to Easter - flogging Manly before pipping the Bulldogs on Good Friday. Their last start saw them beaten by rivals St George Illawarra - a game they really didn't look to be a part of until the last few minutes.

There's not a heap of team news for this contest - the Roosters are as named, while the Rabbitohs welcome back winger Richie Kennar. Kennar's return pushes Dane Gagai back to his preferred centre role and Hymel Hunt misses out. The cardinal and myrtle are missing Sam Burgess for one more week after his suspension for dangerous contact on Canterbury's Josh Morris in Round 4.

Last meeting: Round 18 2017 - Roosters 14 Rabbitohs 12

The Roosters won both feudal battles last season, but it's South Sydney who hold the overall advantage between the sides with 112 wins from 216 matches. At Allianz, it's all the Roosters with 24 wins from 37 matches.

Who to watch: There's been a bit of media around James Tedesco this week and if we're being honest his first five weeks for the Tricolours could be described as solid without being spectacular. The incumbent NSW custodian's combinations with his new masters in the halves still needs refining. The good news is he has one of the best halves in the game - Cooper Cronk - to work with.

Since Greg Inglis' move into the centres, Alex Johnston has made the #1 jersey his own. Inglis remains happy at centre for now and it's still to be seen if the Maroons legend will want to move to the back, but in the meantime Anthony Seibold appears more than pleased to persist with 'AJ' at the top of the teamlist. Last year when the Bunnies won three in a row late in the year, Johnston bagged six tries in those clashes - and he delivered a similarly shiny performance when they downed Manly in Round 3 this season, scoring a try and setting up two others.

The favourite: On paper and form, there's plenty of backing for the Roosters.

My tip: With the consistency of both sides it's hard to know which side will fire and which will flop. Hopefully both fire - but if they do the Roosters should have too much class. Roosters by 10.

1. James Tedesco 2. Reece Robinson 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 14. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Isaac Liu 18. Nat Butcher 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Mitchell Aubusson 17. Victor Radley

1. Alex Johnston 2. Richard Kennar 3. Greg Inglis 4. Dane Gagai 5. Robert Jennings 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 16. Jason Clark 14. Adam Doueihi 15. Mark Nicholls 17. Tevita Tatola 21. Kyle Turner

Referees: Grant Atkins, Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Luke Patten;

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