NRL: Knights primed for next raid against Canberra

TRY TIME: Lachlan Fitzgibbon is congratulated by Tautau Moga after scoring a try in the 19-18 win over Manly in the season opener at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: Darren Pateman (AAP)
TRY TIME: Lachlan Fitzgibbon is congratulated by Tautau Moga after scoring a try in the 19-18 win over Manly in the season opener at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: Darren Pateman (AAP)

THEY stood firm against a turbo-charged Manly pack, but Knights back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon expects an even tougher assignment against an international-laden Canberra engine room on Sunday.

The Knights, led by new arrivals Herman Ese’ese and Aidan Guerra, won the battle of the middle to help engineer a thrilling 19-18 win over Manly in the season opener.

“I thought we did alright as a pack because they’ve got a pretty seasoned, strong pack with some really good players,” said Fitzgibbon, who scored a second-half try to put the Knights ahead 18-16.

“We have a lot of new faces in our pack. Coming together for our first game, I thought it was a decent effort. There is definitely areas we need to improve on. And we must improve on for this weekend because Canberra have another strong, seasoned pack. They had a loss [Sunday night] and will be raring to go.”

Knights coach Nathan Brown has named an unchanged squad for the trip to the nation’s capital.

For the Raiders, Joe Tapine has been sidelined with a dislocated thumb, with English international Elliott Whitehead returning to the back-row and Luke Bateman named at lock.

Sia Soliola will start at prop with Junior Paulo set to come on as an impact player, while Blake Austin will line-up at five-eighth with Aidan Sezer to deputise at hooker.

Former Warriors wrecking ball Charlie Gubb will make his club debut on the bench.

Tapine was one of Canberra's best in a shattering 30-28 loss against the Gold Coast Titans but Soliola believes there won't be a dip in quality in the 23-year-old's absence.

The Raiders veteran is adamant Gubb can make a difference as Canberra look to bury the demons of round one.

"He brings a lot of energy. That's one of the things he's admired for by a lot of the players and especially a lot of the fans back home in New Zealand," Soliola said. "It's just his efforts and his energy that he brings, whether he'll be starting or he's off the bench, that's what he's done here.”

The Raiders demolished a flat Knights outfit up the middle in a 46-28 rout in round 25 last season.

However, Soliala, one of five Test players in the Canberra pack, was impressed by the new-look Knights.

"They just look like a team, you can see the excitement and the energy they have - not just on the football field but off the football field with all the support that's been around them," Soliola said.

"The new guys that have come into their joint, they've injected themselves really well over the first week. It's going to be a tough ask for us but we're all looking forward to that challenge."