The Sydney Roosters have unveiled a new-look lineup for their World Club Series-opening clash with St Helens, with coach Trent Robinson naming four recruits in a 19-man squad.
England winger Joe Burgess and former Brisbane trio Dale Copley, Mitchell Frei and Jayden Nikorima have all survived the first cut ahead of Friday’s (Saturday 0700 AEDT) match at Langtree Park.
The match looms as a crucial opportunity for young halves Nikorima and Jackson Hastings to get some valuable match time alongside each other, less than a month after they were thrown together as the team’s play-making duo following captain Mitchell Pearce’s Australia Day indiscretions.
Robinson should also get an insight into who will earn the starting second-row spot temporarily vacated by vice-captain Boyd Cordner, who injured his pectoral muscle in training and faces up to three months on the sideline.
Cordner’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the Roosters pack, as does that of fellow vice-captain Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who remains sidelined with a knee injury suffered last year.
“Obviously they’re some senior members of our team and a big part of our go forward. They’re going to be a massive loss to us,” captain and hooker Jake Friend told AAP.
The two leading contenders, Mitchell Aubusson and Frei, have both been named – and if given the chance, the dependable and versatile Aubusson is confident he can steer the Roosters through the tricky opening rounds of the year.
“It was obviously disappointing for Boyd to go down like that as he’s been one of our leaders and hardest trainers through the pre-season,” Aubusson told AAP on Wednesday.
“I think I’ll get a bit of a crack there on Friday night and hopefully I can do a good job for the boys.
“It’s going to be hard to replace Boyd, but if I get to play there I’ll do it in my own way and enjoy it.”
Blake Ferguson will get his first chance to impress in the No.1 jersey he hopes to make his own following the off-season departure of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, while young sensation Latrell Mitchell is also in line to play.
With a host of young talent on show, Aubusson is optimistic there will be some good news filtering out of the club following a troublesome off-season.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing a couple of the older guys run round but more so the young guys who haven’t played as much,” he said.
“I think there’s some young names who after Friday we’ll be talking about come Saturday morning.”
Robinson will name a final 17 one hour before kick-off.
Roosters squad to face St Helens: Mitchell Aubusson, Joe Burgess, Dale Copley, Kane Evans, Blake Ferguson, Mitchell Frei, Jake Friend, Aidan Guerra, Jackson Hastings, Ian Henderson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Vincent Leuluai, Isaac Liu, Latrell Mitchell, Sam Moa, Dylan Napa, Jayden Nikorima, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Daniel Tupou.