Gasnier's return boosts Dragons - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Gasnier's return boosts Dragons

By Liam FitzGibbon 08/07/2008 06:55:04 PM Comments (0)

High-flying St George Illawarra will welcome back star centre pairing Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper in their bid for a record-equalling eighth straight NRL win against Canberra on Sunday.

Gasnier was named Tuesday to return from a back injury and will slot straight back into the centres alongside Matt Cooper, who returns from State of Origin duty.

The pair add a massive boost to a side already brimming with confidence and surging up the table on the back of seven straight wins.

Another win at WIN Stadium on Sunday will see them equal the streak they set in their run to the finals in 2005.

Halfback Ben Hornby said he welcomed the return of his star teammates but played down the impact they would have on the team.

"We've covered for them in the past and we feel comfortable with or without them," Hornby said.

"But we get them back this week and hopefully with our full side out there we can get away with a win.

"... We're not surprised with the way we are going but obviously we are all happy around here at the moment but we want to keep climbing."

As expected, the return of Gasnier and Cooper to the Dragons' backline, and the form of wingers Jason Nightingale and Josh Morris means dual international Wendell Sailor will return to the lower grades, most likely with Burleigh Bears in the Qld Cup.

The Dragons had hoped to have Ben Creagh back from a knee injury but he was not named on Tuesday.

Nathan Brown's side will face an unchanged Canberra team from the one that lost to Melbourne, with hooker Glen Buttriss (knee) the only injury concern.

Meanwhile, Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes has put his faith in exciting teenager Arana Taumata to steer his side out of its dismal form.

Taumata was named at halfback for Sunday's match with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium alongside the returning Daniel Holdsworth, with Kiwi international Ben Roberts relegated to the bench.

The Bulldogs also welcome back Chris Armit and Reni Maitua but they face a daunting task with halves Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace named to return for the Broncos.

Newcastle coach Brian Smith has named Knights `Mr Fix It' Kurt Gidley at hooker in place of injured captain Danny Buderus for Friday night's clash against Penrith.

Panthers coach Matthew Elliott has kept faith in his young side which beat Parramatta, with 18-year-old Lachlan Coote hanging on to his place on the wing despite Michael Gordon named to make his return from injury on an extended bench.

The Tigers suffered a blow ahead of Monday night's match against reigning premiers Melbourne with halfback Mathew Head ruled out due to shoulder and thumb injuries.

John Morris will play alongside Benji Marshall in the halves while the Tigers will welcome back Keith Galloway from a foot injury.

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