Titans coach Neil Henry is considering handing Chris McQueen what has become the toughest assignment in the 2016 Telstra Premiership to date; shutting down James Tedesco.
The Wests Tigers fullback has been in blistering form in his team’s opening two games of the season and in the space of a fortnight has gone from Origin bolter to the Blues’ No.1 option to play fullback.
The Titans have lost right centre Nathan Davis for the clash with the Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night and Henry is weighing up a number of possible configurations for his final 17.
With Eddy Pettybourne set to return from a cork that he suffered in Round 1, Henry is toying with the idea of using McQueen at right centre as a way of shoring up their right-hand edge defence.
With the addition of John Olive to the squad of 18 on Friday the alternative is to shift Nene Macdonald from left wing to right centre and put Olive back on the wing but Henry remains open to the possibility of using McQueen in what would be just his fifth NRL game starting in the centres.
“It’s a matter now of what combination we go with on that right edge. We’ll wait and see,” Henry said after confirming that Davis had succumbed to a shoulder injury.
" is included in the mix there and he is in the 18 but whether or not he is in the 17 we will wait and see.
“Chris McQueen has played out on that right edge before and we’ve got Eddy Pettybourne back.”
Topping the NRL stats through two rounds for tackle busts (15) and tries (five) Tedesco has stamped himself as the most dynamic ball-runner currently in the competition.
Last week against the Sea Eagles Tedesco scored three tries (two on the right, one on the left) and played a prominent role in two further Tigers’ tries attacking Manly’s right-edge defence.
Henry concedes that stopping Tedesco in his current mood is nigh on impossible and will instead instruct his players to win the territory battle in order to limit the 23-year-old’s influence on the contest.
“You need to try and reduce his impact but at fullback he’s going to get his hands on the ball,” said Henry.
"He’s been very sharp out the back of their plays, those sweeping attacking plays, he’s great on his feet, he got off his right foot and ducked in for a try so he’s a very good carrier of the ball and in a confident frame of mind at the moment.
"It’s up to our kickers to be a bit better than they were last week and our kick-chase has got to be good.
"You can’t have a broken line there because he’ll thread his way through it but his biggest threat’s been in attack where he’s turning up in that attacking zone.
“All we can do about that is trying to get some sort of territorial advantage by limiting the amount of time they spend in our half.”
Curtis Sironen – who was injured after 10 minutes – was the only starting forward for the Tigers not to run for more than 100 metres and Titans captain Nathan Friend said limiting that roll-on is key in containing Tedesco.
“The Tigers have been going really well through the middle and laying a platform for their creative halves that are young and exuberant and will try anything,” Friend said.
"They’ve probably got the form fullback of the comp. We’re only two rounds in but Tedesco is going great and we can’t give him any room. Our kick-chase will have to be on point once again.
“Hopefully we can stop him this weekend because he is playing well.”