Broncos v Roosters preview

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Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters Friday 7:50pm at Suncorp Stadium

Undermanned Broncos look to bounce back against revitalised Roosters

After suffering a disappointing 38-24 loss to the lowly Sea Eagles last week, Wayne Bennett's Broncos face an uphill battle as they look to overcome injuries to Jack Bird (sternum), Alex Glenn (knee) and Payne Haas (shoulder). Tom Opacic starts at centre with Tevita Pangai Junior shifting to the second row. Meanwhile, Joe Ofahengaue starts at lock and Sam Tagataese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Patrick Mago join the bench. However, injuries are not Brisbane's only concerns as they will need a drastic improvement in defence if they are to topple the Roosters this week. The Broncos missed 48 tackles in the 14-point defeat, a clear contrast from the 14 tackles missed in their 22-20 win over the Bulldogs the week prior. The Tricolours appear to have rediscovered their attacking brilliance after last week's 32-0 win over the Warriors and that could pose serious concerns for the home side if they do not toughen up in defence.

The Sydney Roosters were installed as pre-season premiership favourites off the back of a high-profile recruitment drive. However, they have experienced an inconsistent start to their 2018 campaign leaving several experts wondering when the true Roosters would finally stand up. Unfortunately for the Broncos, it seems as if Trent Robinson's men are close to fulfilling their potential after claiming a dominant 32-0 win over the high-flying Warriors last weekend. Despite making 11 errors and conceding 13 penalties, the Roosters simply outplayed the New Zealand outfit, managing five tries and line breaks and restricting the Warriors to zero in both of these areas. Robinson's men are also boosted by the return of the promising Victor Radley from suspension.

Last meeting: Finals Week 1 2017 - Roosters 24 Broncos 22

Who to watch: Following Cameron Smith's shock decision to retire from representative football, this Friday night's clash of the No. 9s could determine who replaces the Melbourne skipper in the Origin arena.

Andrew McCullough made a surprising early return from injury a fortnight ago and was particularly impressive in last week's game with the Sea Eagles, despite the loss. McCullough scored a try, set one up and made 44 tackles in a strong 80-minute display. A similar effort on Friday night should see him make his Maroons debut seeing that he is already likely ahead of the other candidates for Smith's vacant jersey.

Meanwhile, while up for a potential Origin debut, Roosters rake Jake Friend will be more focussed on improving as to safeguard his position in the starting side given the recent form of rookie Victor Radley. It was revealed last week that Friend had been playing with a cracked sternum - a stunning revelation given that Radley would have been a more than capable replacement. Nonetheless, the expectation is clearly that Friend still performs and while he is still a very strong defender, he lacks the long-range kicking game that McCullough offers out of dummy-half. Therefore, Friend will need to discover an extra element in his game if he is to convince Maroons coach Kevin Walters that he is the man to replace Smith.

The favourite: Friday night's game pits an in-form Roosters side against an out-of-sorts Broncos outfit and the Tricolours have been installed as comfortable favourites accordingly.

My tip: The Broncos were dreadful last week and it is hard to see them improving with key personnel missing. In addition, this week they face a Roosters side coming off their strongest performance of the season. It all equates to bad news for Brisbane fans. Roosters by 18.

1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tom Opacic 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Tevita Pangai Junior 12. Jaydn Su'a 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Sam Tagataese 16. Korbin Sims 17. Patrick Mago 18. Kotoni Staggs

1. James Tedesco 2. Joseph Manu 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Mitchell Aubusson 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Isaac Liu 14. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Kurt Baptiste 17. Victor Radley

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Ben Galea;

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