AAP Rugby

Dragon to play 36 hours after US return

By AAP Newswire

He's just played in the rarefied air of Denver, now Leeson Ah Mau could play 36 hours after touchdown.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor admitted Ah Mau could be one of six players to back up from last week's representative round and face Parramatta on Thursday.

Ah Mau was part of the New Zealand squad stranded in the United States because of a storm, but landed in Sydney early on Wednesday and headed straight to training in Wollongong.

He is one of seven Dragons to have featured in last week's representative round, with NSW State of Origin forward Tyson Frizell the only omission from Thursday's clash with Parramatta.

McGregor said Frizell was being rested for niggling injuries, but confirmed England pair James Graham and Gareth Widdop, as well as Blues forward Jack de Belin, were certain starters against the Eels.

"The commitment to one another and the team, at this stage I can't talk any of them out of playing. I'll just see how they get through training," McGregor said on Wednesday.

"But they're very confident about the position they're in, where they want to play and what they want to do for their teammates."

While the delayed return of the Kiwis has caused angst among some clubs and players, McGregor was reluctant to heap more criticism on the international fixture.

Like Melbourne chief boss Dave Donaghy, he suggested the timing and venue needed to be reviewed.

"It's the most interrupted week of my coaching career, which is three-and-a-half years deep," he said.

"However if you're going to cross a dateline and have an international flight, you've got to expect some sort of repercussions from it.

"I've just got to move on to be honest. I'm not concerned about how it's been delayed 48 hours. It happens. What are you going to change? Nothing.

"For us it's about now putting the best care around Leeson, that's really important for us."

The Dragons will be expected to cement their spot at the top of the table with a comfortable showing against the last-placed Eels, who have lost second-rower Manu Ma'u to a fractured cheekbone.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has made a host of changes to the side that were humbled by South Sydney last-start, including the return of Mitchell Moses at five-eighth.

Siosaia Vave starts for a benched Tim Mannah, while Will Smith replaces a suspended Reed Mahoney.


- Since 2013, first has met last eight times with the ladder leaders winning seven of them.

- Parramatta have won their past six meetings with the Dragons.

- The Dragons will be aiming to equal their best start to a season since their breakthrough 2010 premiership year, when they won 12 of their opening 15 games.