Penrith to strike before rep commitments

Scott Bailey
Viliame Kikau will miss just one game for a Panthers side looking to cement their top four NRL spot

Penrith are taking a cautious approach with their State of Origin stars but know Friday night's clash with the Sydney Roosters is their best chance to strike during the representative period.

The front-runners' four Origin players - Nathan Cleary, James Maloney, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tyrone Peachey - were all rested from club training on Monday and won't return until Wednesday after a long weekend.

But it's expected they'll all be available to take on the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Friday, marking their third game in nine days following Origin and last week's win over Canberra.

"They were impressive even without the game to be able to back up and put themselves in that position," veteran Trent Merrin said.

"To go out there and perform the way they did was a proof of character.

"It's always great to have those players in your team but it's a test of their character to back up and perform like they did."

The clash shapes as their least affected game through the Origin period, given a host of Origin and international players have a cluttered schedule in the weeks that follow.

As many as five Panthers could be in the eyes of Kiwi selectors for the Denver Test, while a number of others could feature in the Pacific Tests at Campbelltown during the representative weekend.

Combined with their four Origin stars, they'll each have to back up to play Manly the following week.

Their Origin players will then also miss the round 17 home clash with the Warriors, who will be at unaffected.

"It's always a test against the Roosters. They're a quality team and you have to bring your best when you come up against them," Merrin said.

"Once they get back in on Wednesday they'll be setting themselves for the weekend.

"We've been tested throughout the whole year. It's probably been a blessing in disguise with players coming out and in.

"You know those players stepping into those roles are going to get the job done."

Meanwhile Penrith received mixed news on the injury front on Monday.

Damaging back-rower Viliame Kikau is now only expected to miss one match with a knee injury, despite initial fears he could be out for six weeks.

But hooker Peter Wallace (shoulder) and Waqa Blake (ankle) will still be unavailable for the Roosters match as their injury layoffs continue.