Caretaker coach Paul McGregor has rung in a number of changes for his first game in charge of the Dragons after Steve Price’s sacking.
St George Illawarra caretaker coach Paul McGregor has moved swiftly to put his stamp on the Dragons, naming talented rookie Peter Mata’utia for his first NRL start in the centres in a series of changes.
After taking over from the dumped Steve Price on Monday, McGregor named his first team as interim coach on Tuesday for Monday’s round 12 clash with South Sydney.
One of the joint venture’s greatest centre-three-quarters, McGregor has thrust Mata’utia, who joined the Red V this season after limited opportunities with Newcastle, into the centres after his only appearance for the club so far on the wing in their last start 36-0 loss to Parramatta.
In a host of changes, Joel Thompson moves back to the second row-from centre with Jason Nightingale returning from a knee injury on the wing.
Ben Creagh will start at prop alongside Dan Hunt, Tyson Frizell and Bronson Harrison move to the bench, while Leeson Ah Mau moves to the backrow.
Benji Marshall will start at halfback after an indifferent first-up effort in their 36-0 thrashing to Parramatta.
McGregor put the Dragons through their paces at Wollongong on Tuesday for the first time after taking the reins.
“The business has seen a need for change now the players have to change,” McGregor said.
“Everyone involved in this situation is disappointed.
“It starts every time we get on the paddock, every time we do video, we have to really work hard for each other.
“There is no easy way out of this.
“The circumstances aren’t great but there are games of footy to be played and everyone in this association needs to work hard to get that done.”
Hooker Issac Luke hasn’t been named to make his return from a shoulder injury for the Rabbitohs but is likely to be a late inclusion.
State of Origin stars are set to return for their clubs following Wednesday night’s series opener, while England international forward Lee Mossop should finally debut for Parramatta against Penrith on Friday after recovering from a shoulder injury.
French forward Remi Casty has retained his spot in Sydney Roosters 17 after his NRL debut for the premiers’ clash with Canberra at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Ben Roberts returns to the Melbourne halves, replacing the injured Joel Romelo (ankle) for the Storm’s trip to Townsville to meet North Queensland.
Halfback Shaun Johnson has been named for the Warriors to take on Newcastle in Auckland on Sunday, but he remains a 50-50 proposition due to an ankle injury.
Manly welcome back Jamie Lyon and Kieran Foran for their match against Brisbane, with David Williams falling out of the side.