Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has described the Sydney Roosters as having “the best roster, man-for-man” in the NRL competition.
After toppling defending premiers South Sydney last week, the Panthers will attempt to strike three wins in as many games for the first time this season.
But they’ll have to do it against the competition heavyweights from Bondi, some of whom will be out to overcome the disappointment of the hammering they copped from Queensland on Wednesday night.
“You’d imagine Aidan Guerra will be feeling pretty good about himself,” Cleary said on Friday.
“And the NSW boys will be keen to get that game out of the way and get another game in. I think they’re going to be really, really pumped.”
For the first time this year, the Panthers are set to field the same 17 from last week after Cleary ruled out any hope of an early return for first-choice regulars James Segeyaro (knee) and Josh Mansour (knee).
In contrast, the Roosters enter the post-Origin period without a single player in the casualty ward.
Cleary heaped praise on a Roosters line-up that includes no less than 12 Origin, Australian or New Zealand representatives.
“They’re arguably the best side in the comp. They’ve certainly got the best roster, man-for-man,” he said.
“(They’re) full of international players, State of Origin players, the works.
“And they’ve put some wins together as well. Really good opportunity to play them at home.
“On the back of beating the premiers last week, it’s a good little opportunity for us to show our wares.”
Cleary pointed out the Roosters’ back three, in particular fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, as the main threat on Saturday night.
“(He’s a) terrific, young player and making a big fist of fullback,” he said.
“They don’t have a player in their side who’s not almost international quality.
“But having said that, their outside backs – particularly their back three – they’re responsible for a lot of their game, getting their game going forward.
“And he’s certainly one that we need to try and limit, the impact he has on the game.”
The Roosters defeated Penrith 20-12 in Round 3 earlier this season.
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Roosters have held the upper hand in this match in recent seasons, winning five of eight since 2011, and four of five since 2013. Penrith have failed to score 20 points in each of those five most recent matches, with the Roosters scoring 142 points to 55.
– The Panthers and Roosters are ranked first and third in offloads this season. Since Round 9, both teams have averaged more than 13 offloads, the most in the league.
– The Roosters have a great record under Robinson following a week off, winning eight of nine games and running up significant scores in the majority of those matches. All up, they have averaged 32 points to 11 in matches after a week off.