Ricky Stuart's plan to end Canberra's recent run of outs against Manly has paid off for Jordan Rapana with his retention in the starting side completing a return to the NRL.
Rapana was a late inclusion on the left edge against the Wests Tigers last week after a fortnight of playing limited minutes following his return from a brief stint with Japanese rugby union outfit Panasonic Wild Knights.
The man he replaced, Bailey Simonsson, was relegated to the bench but has since been left out of Stuart's 17-man outfit this week with the Raiders coach expected to take four forwards on the interchange against a Sea Eagles pack that boasts size.
"It's always good to be back in the starting team, it was a tough game on the weekend and there were a few of us battered and bruised," Rapana said.
"Bailey's a humble champion young kid, I know the person he is and he's got the mentality to always put the team first.
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"Sticky's gone with a four-forward bench and against the Manly pack, it's something we need.
"Once we don't smash their middles and go through the middle third we seem to get dominated. It's massive, we saw it against Newcastle when we didn't do that.
"Manly are like them, they've got a big forward pack and we have to make sure we're matching them and start strong."
Five of the past six clashes between the two sides have been won by four points or less with the Sea Eagles holding a 5-1 record since 2017.
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The Sea Eagles beat the Raiders by a margin of four points on two occasions last year in a season that saw Stuart's men fall agonising close to a title.
"They're a quality team, they're always in the fight and a team that know how to grind teams down," Rapana said.
"I think we're a very similar to them in that aspect, that we stay in the fight and grind it out until the final whistle.
"They play off the back of their forward pack and get a lot of momentum going. Daly Cherry-Evans controls the game well and they're just a gritty, tough team."
Rapana signed a one-year deal to return with the Raiders in May after his contract with the Wild Knights was cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Looking back at the start of the year I had a whole different goal playing rugby union in Japan," he said.
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"With all this stuff that's happened, I'm very grateful to be back in rugby league and more importantly at the Raiders.
"When I came back I was a little bit overweight but the 3-4 weeks mini pre-season in April helped me drop my weight back to where I wanted to be so I was lucky."