Canberra winger Jordan Rapana has made a miraculous recovery from shoulder surgery eight weeks ahead of schedule in a massive boost for Ricky Stuart’s side.
The prolific try-scorer has been named in his usual right wing spot for Friday’s NRL clash with Melbourne and “Leipana” is set to take full flight after he was named outside good mate Joey Leilua.
Rapana went under the knife after injuring his shoulder on New Zealand’s Test tour of England last year.
He had been pencilled in to return near rounds 8-10 and the club applied for salary cap relief, believing they were set to lose him long-term.
But he will come into the side for their round two clash at the expense of last week’s debutant Bailey Simonsson.
Jordan Rapana is named to return this week, 4 months and 1 week post shoulder reconstruction. Much earlier than initial recovery estimate from the club (Rd11-13), but fits the usual expectation of 4-6 months return to play
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) March 19, 2019
— James Cheeseman (@shaggy84329) March 19, 2019
Meanwhile, Wests Tigers skipper Moses Mbye has been named on an extended bench and is in line to lead the side out for the first time.
Mbye missed the joint venture’s opening round win due to a knee injury but is a chance to take on the Warriors at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday.
After being appointed captain during the off-season, it would mark Mbye’s first game in charge of the Tigers.
“Around midweek I’ll make a decision around that. He’s trained really well over this last little period,” coach Michael Maguire said.
“We sat him out last week because we felt he just wasn’t there. He’s pretty close now.”
Maguire also confirmed playmaker Josh Reynolds would turn out in the NSW Cup this weekend.
Blake Lawrie has been named in the St George Illawarra No.13 jumper for Tyson Frizell (testicle injury), with Josh Kerr to earn his debut off the bench against South Sydney.
The Rabbitohs have named Kyle Turner on the bench with last week’s debutant Corey Allan dropped.
Warriors hooker Issac Luke trained on Tuesday and is a chance to take on the Tigers after being named on an extended bench.
Brisbane’s Tevita Pangai Junior has moved to prop for the suspended Matt Lodge, David Fifita will start in the second row and Shaun Fensom will make his club debut.
Parramatta’s Josh Hoffman earns his first NRL game of the year, coming into Brad Arthur’s side for the suspended Michael Jennings.
Junior Paulo (hamstring) will play his first game for the Eels in three years, replacing Nathan Brown (pec).
Herman Ese’ese comes in at prop for Newcastle for Daniel Saifiti (knee).
Penrith have been boosted with hooker Sione Katoa returning from a concussion and with back-rowers Hame Sele (arm) and Isaah Yeo (concussion) also named despite suffering injuries on the weekend.
For Melbourne, Patrick Kaufusi replaces Tom Eisenhuth (larynx).
With halves Ash Taylor (quad) and Tyrone Roberts (Achilles) out, AJ Brimson and Ryley Jacks will guide Gold Coast around the park.