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Titans back-row envy of the NRL: Bailey

By Daniel Pace 08/04/2008 06:19:57 PM Comments (0)

Inspirational prop Luke Bailey has rated the Gold Coast back-row as one of the best in the NRL and believes the Titans won't suffer from his enforced absence due to a fractured forearm.

Searching for their first away victory since June last year, the Titans take on Parramatta on Friday night without their co-captain and forwards leader.

Coach John Cartwright has handed New Zealand prop James Stosic the unenviable task of filling the large boots of Bailey, who could be sidelined for up to six weeks.

"Everyone's playing with a bit more confidence," Bailey told AAP.

"We still haven't got the away win that we're after.

"There's a bit of pressure but the boys are looking forward to it.

"I think everyone's lifted a leg from the work our back-rowers have been doing."

Anthony Laffranchi and Mark Minichiello have continued from where they left off in 2007 while Sydney Roosters recruit Ashley Harrison has proven to be an astute buy for the club.

Some might say the Roosters boast the best back-row in the competition with Willie Mason, Anthony Tupou and Craig Fitzgibbon all having represented Australia.

But Bailey believes the Titans back-row is equal to the best.

"It's probably a little bit premature to say but they're up there with the best back row in the competition," said Bailey, who was almost certain to win selection for the May 9 Centenary Test against New Zealand before his injury.

"Minichiello's probably the most under-rated player and Laffranchi is due for representative honours this year.

"Even Ash is looking to play for Queensland.

"They're playing consistent footy and haven't missed many matches.

"They don't do the miracle balls or score a heap of tries but they are playing some good footy."

Bailey said the Titans forwards would be highly encouraged by Cartwright's comments made to a Gold Coast newspaper about the front-rower's injury this week.

"Twelve months ago this would have rocked me a lot more but now I am pretty comfortable with the guys we have around him (Bailey)," Cartwright said.

"I just think that everyone around is lifting and we are playing much more of a team game this year."

A serious knee injury to late-blooming winger Jordan Atkins during the Titans' victory over Canberra last weekend has paved the way for Matt Petersen to reclaim the spot he lost due to a hip injury.

Petersen has been out of action for six weeks but will return to the paddock a fortnight ahead of schedule to replace Atkins, who scored four tries on debut in round one.

"It's a good surprise to be back," Petersen said.

"I've got to take this opportunity. Last year counts for nothing.

"This year the boys are going well and a week's a long time in football."

The Titans are equal leaders in the competition following three wins at their new home Skilled Park and a loss to St George Illawarra in Wollongong.

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