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Gasnier back for Dragons

24/06/2003 06:52:02 PM Comments (0)

Kangaroos centre Mark Gasnier hopped straight back into the St George Illawarra team after being cleared to make his long-awaited National Rugby League comeback against Manly on Saturday night.

Gasnier has been out for six weeks with a chipped bone in his knee that shattered his State of Origin prospects but now has an opportunity to press for NSW selection for game three in the series.

While the Dragons celebrated the return of Gasnier, coach Nathan Brown suffered the disappointment of losing another captain with in-form Lance Thompson ruled out for six weeks with a fractured foot.

Thompson played last Saturday against South Sydney with a fractured eye socket but left the field in the second half with a sore foot.

Team doctor Martin Raftery said initial investigations had revealed a fracture in Thompson's left foot but he would not know the full extent of the injury and layoff time until further tests.

Thompson joins regular skipper Trent Barrett (ankle) on the sidelines as the Dragons struggle to keep pace with the leading teams.

Thompson's place in the second row will be taken by NSW State of Origin prop Luke Bailey, while Shaun Timmins will be captain and the starting lock.

Other changes from the team which downed Souths include the return from Origin duty of prop Jason Ryles, who will start in the front row in place of Quentin Pongia.

Pongia this week took up a two-year deal with English Super League club Wigan.

The Sydney Roosters surprisingly placed Queensland Origin utility Chris Flannery on standby for the premiers' blockbuster against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

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