Forwards key to Raiders' fight with Sharks

Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson is expecting another fiery clash with Cronulla.

Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson is expecting another fiery clash with Cronulla.

While Jordan Rapana's return is set to give Canberra's backline a massive boost, hooker Josh Hodgson believes the forwards battle will decide their must-win NRL clash with Cronulla.

Hodgson is expecting another fiery encounter with the Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night, with the Raiders needing to upset the reigning premiers to stay in the finals hunt.

"We know it's going to be a physical battle in the middle and we know we need to win that first before anything else," Hodgson said.

"They've got a great pack and they've got some fast outside backs."

It shapes as a mouth-watering tussle up front, with Test prop Shannon Boyd and Raiders' partner-in-crime Junior Paulo set to do battle with Cronulla's Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior.

There's firepower on Canberra's bench which boasts Dave Taylor and Joe Tapine, while the Sharks' starting pack includes Luke Lewis, Wade Graham and Paul Gallen.

The Raiders get back star second-rower Josh Papalii, who like Rapana was suspended for a shoulder charge.

Papalii has been a central figure in the two sides' rivalry since he targeted Sharks skipper Gallen in a final five years ago.

The Raiders had their hearts broken by Cronulla in last year's qualifying final, while the Sharks' forwards set up a 42-16 thrashing in Canberra earlier in the season.

"When I'm wearing the green jersey I think everyone's rivals," Papalii said.

"But definitely with Cronulla in finals series, especially in 2012 and last year when they got us at home."

Papalii urged his teammates to go up a notch and show better ball control.

"We definitely know how to get there; we definitely know how to play finals," he said.

And Hodgson is confident they have lifted with their season on the line.

"With the situation we're in everyone's a bit more revved up than normal," Hodgson said.

"We know we really have to put in our best performance each week otherwise we could miss out on the eight."

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