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22nd July 2020, 09:05 | nrl

NRL Preview | Round 11

NRL Preview | Round 11

Luke Thompson's Bulldogs face Newcastle

England prop Luke Thompson is looking forward to testing himself against Australia’s leading front-rower David Klemmer for the first time when Canterbury travel to Newcastle this weekend.

Thompson, who has made two appearances for the Bulldogs, will play opposite Klemmer for the first time as England have not met the Kangaroos at international level since the 2017 World Cup final.

“I am really looking forward to it,” Thompson said. “I love challenging myself and I relish them battles in the middle so it will be good to come up against a guy like Klemmer.

“I have seen him play over here for a number of years, he is a good player and tough competitor so I am looking forward to that.”

It has been a baptism of fire for Thompson since his arrival, with coach Dean Pay quitting after Canterbury’s loss to Brisbane and the Bulldogs suffering a last minute defeat against St George Illawarra.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” the former St Helens star said. “It’s not too different [to Super League]. Obviously there are different faces and it’s a different league but it’s the same game.

“It’s a bit harder with the six-again, it can make the game tough in defence and it’s a bit faster but apart from that it is very similar.

“It can be hard when you are under fatigue but you have got to keep turning up for your mates and keep the talk in defence and don’t stop moving.”

The Bulldogs are sitting in outright last position on the NRL ladder and are four points behind the Cowboys, Warriors, Broncos and Titans.

In comparison, Newcastle are fourth behind Penrith, Parramatta and Melbourne Storm and one point ahead of last year’s grand finalists Sydney Roosters and Canberra.

The Raiders beat the Roosters 24-20 in an epic clash last weekend and the win was even more impressive given their injury toll, headed by England hooker Josh Hodgson (knee).

Former Wigan halfback George Williams said Canberra were looking to stay ahead of a chasing pack, which includes South Sydney, by beating the Rabbitohs in Saturday’s clash at GIO Stadium.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is keeping his Souths counterpart Wayne Bennett guessing about the make-up of the team after naming England second-rower John Bateman on an extended bench.

Bateman, who will return to Wigan next year, has been recovering from a shoulder injury and was not expected to play until later in the season.

“We did a contact session and he was flying about and his shoulder was fine,” Williams said. “It was pleasing to see him back training with the boys.

“That was the first time I’ve seen him [at training] and he weren’t holding back.”

Round 11 commences on Thursday with the eighth-placed Wests Tigers taking on the Eels, who dropped from top spot after their second loss of the season last weekend against Manly.

The Sea Eagles travel to North Queensland on Friday to play the Cowboys, who will be coached by Josh Hannay and David Tangata-Toa after the departure of Paul Green during the week. Hannay and Tangata-Toa were team-mates with Celtic Crusaders, with Tangata-Toa also playing for Hull KR.

Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold is also under intense pressure to retain his job and will be hoping for an improved effort from the Broncos in Friday’s clash with the Storm.

The Warriors will be hoping to farewell Test wingers David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo with a win on Saturday against the Roosters after they and two other players decided to return home to New Zealand.

Cronulla and St George Illawarra will be aiming to keep their finals hopes alive when they clash on Saturday, while Justin Holbrook’s Gold Coast Titans host new NRL leaders Penrith on Sunday.​