Cowboys young gun on alert for Roosters star
COWBOYS coach Paul Green is confident rookie centre Enari Tuala can rise to the challenge of marking up against Roosters weapon Latrell Mitchell in Sydney on Saturday night.
Tuala, 19, has been a beacon of hope in a tough season for the Cowboys, averaging 87 metres per game and scoring two tries since locking down a regular first-grade spot at right centre.
But Mitchell's form has been undeniable this season, scoring five tries in his past two games along with four linebreaks and 12 tackle busts as the Roosters have entrenched themselves in the top four.
Tuala kept Souths superstar Greg Inglis well contained earlier this season in just his second NRL appearance and Green backed the Cairns product to again do the job on Mitchell.
"They're two good, young centres. Latrell's obviously done a bit more than Enari at this stage, but Enari's got to see that as a challenge," Green said.
"He (Mitchell) is in great form. He's coming off that Origin series now, he's probably recovered from that and that's probably given him a bit of confidence.
"It's a young edge down there for us (with Tuala and backrower Coen Hess) but he's not that much older than them so it shouldn't be an age thing.
"Enari did a good job on Inglis, who's one of the best centres in the comp. He's come up to the mark when we've asked him so he's got to look at it as a challenge."
Green has named an unchanged team to face the Roosters following last weekend's comeback win over the Knights, with utility Ben Hampton training yesterday despite a rib complaint.
Veteran prop Matt Scott returns to the starting side after making his return from a neck issue last weekend alongside Jordan McLean, who also made a strong comeback from a foot injury.
Green said having their world-class forwards laying the platform would be a huge boost against the physical Roosters pack.
"We weren't sure how his (Scott) neck would handle all the contact given how long he'd been out for, but he seemed to handle it pretty well in the game and pulled up reasonably well too," Green said.
"I thought he (McLean) was really good considering how long he'd been out for. He made a huge difference through the middle there on both sides of the ball, but I was more impressed with the way he got through the time he played.
"We're certainly strong through the forward pack there."
Retiring Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston turned back the clock to inspire his side to victory over the Knights as he prepares to come up against good friend and Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk for the last time.
Thurston and Cronk were fixtures in the halves together for Queensland and Australia and Green hoped that added motivation for their co-captain would flow through the rest of the Cowboys line-up.
"Hopefully we all get a bit of confidence out of it. Just building on that performance (against the Knights) and looking for little bit more improvement," Green said.
Cowboys team to play Roosters: 1 Te Maire Martin, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Enari Tuala, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Justin O'Neill, 6 Jake Clifford, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matt Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo, 14 Ben Hampton, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 John Asiata, 17 Scott Bolton. Reserves: 18 Corey Jensen, 19 Lachlan Coote, 20 Javid Bowen, 21 Francis Molo.