The 20th Annual Anzac Day Cup clash against the St George Illawarra Dragons is no doubt set to be one of the matches of the year as traditional rivals go head-to-head in a bid to establish a footing in the top four on the most storied day on the Rugby League calendar.
Recent History: Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons
This Sunday afternoon marks the 44th time the Roosters and Dragons meet (as St George Illawarra), with the Red, White and Blue holding a slender 22-20 winning margin, with a sole draw in 2001 being the only tied result.
For the most part, though, the red v held the ledger - that is until recently where the Tricolours have recorded eight wins from the last ten encounters, and are currently on a five-game winning streak against their long-standing rivals. The most recent of which was a 24-16 win in last year's Anzac Cup match which marked Mitchell Aubusson's 300th NRL appearance, becoming just the third Rooster to do so.
When it comes to the annual Anzac Day Cup, Sunday will mark the 20th edition of the traditional match, which began in 2002, and while the Dragons have claimed victory on 11 occasions, the Roosters have built momentum by claiming the prestigious cup for the last two seasons running.
Both teams are coming off less than ideal defeats in Round 6, so there will be more than silverware at stake when these two old foes come together once again, and it will be the first time since 2009 where the Roosters don the famous Wartime jersey, featuring Bondi Blue.
How They Line Up
A number of changes have been made to Trent Robinson's line up, most notably with Sam Verrills returning to the no.9 jersey after sustaining an ACL injury in mid-2020.
Brett Morris also returns to the line up after being a late omission to the Round 6 match against the Storm, while Siosiua Taukeiaho and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves have been named after being cleared of any injury concerns following the match.
Captain James Tedesco hosts an all-star backline featuring Daniel Tupou, Joseph Manu, Morris and twin brother Josh, while Drew Hutchison and Sam Walker continue to forge a partnership in the halves.
Isaac Liu packs down in the front row alongside Verrills and Taukeiaho, with the forward pack rounded off by Angus Crichton, Sitili Tupouniua and Victor Radley, who was successful in downgrading his charge at the NRL Judiciary on Tuesday night.
Fullback for Roosters is number 1 James TedescoFullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
Winger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel TupouWinger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
Centre for Roosters is number 3 Josh MorrisCentre for Dragons is number 2 Cody Ramsey
Centre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph ManuCentre for Dragons is number 4 Zac Lomax
Winger for Roosters is number 5 Brett MorrisWinger for Dragons is number 20 Jordan Pereira
Five-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Drew HutchisonFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
Halfback for Roosters is number 7 Sam WalkerHalfback for Dragons is number 3 Jack Bird
Prop for Roosters is number 8 Isaac LiuProp for Dragons is number 8 Blake Lawrie
Hooker for Roosters is number 14 Benjamin MarschkeHooker for Dragons is number 9 Andrew McCullough
Prop for Roosters is number 17 Lindsay CollinsProp for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Angus Crichton2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Sitili Tupouniua2nd Row for Dragons is number 18 Billy Burns
Lock for Roosters is number 13 Victor RadleyLock for Dragons is number 13 Tyrell Fuimaono
Interchange for Roosters is number 9 Sam VerrillsInterchange for Dragons is number 7 Adam Clune
Interchange for Roosters is number 15 Jared Waerea-HargreavesInterchange for Dragons is number 11 Josh Kerr
Interchange for Roosters is number 16 Nat ButcherInterchange for Dragons is number 15 Josh McGuire
Interchange for Roosters is number 18 Fletcher BakerInterchange for Dragons is number 16 Daniel Alvaro
Reserve for Roosters is number 19 Matt IkuvaluReserve for Dragons is number 14 Kaide Ellis
- Referee: Ashley Klein
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Matt Noyen
- Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara
Ben Marschke returns to the interchange bench that will pack plenty of punch with Waerea-Hargeaves as well as Lindsay Collins and Nat Butcher.
The quartet of Fletcher Baker, Matt Ikuvalu, Egan Butcher and Tuku Hau Tapuha make up Robinson's extended bench.
The Dragons retain a majority of the side that went down to the Warriors on Sunday afternoon, boosted by the inclusion of Blake Lawrie in the front row with the immediate retirement of Trent Merrin, while Ben Hunt has been named on the extended bench ahead of what could be a possible return from injury.
Key Matchup: Joseph Manu vs Jack Bird
Two of the game's most exciting and unpredictable centres come together on Sunday afternoon as Joseph Manu and Jack Bird go head-to-head.
Manu has been a staple in the Red, White and Blue for the best part of five years, while Bird returns to the Dragons in time for his first Anzac Day Cup clash.
Both Premiership winners early in their careers, the two dynamic centres have had solid starts to 2021 already, finding themselves equally adept at running with the ball and putting their wingers over to score.
Manu has proved handy with ball in hand, putting over Brett Morris for four of his eleven tries this season, but Bird isn't too far behind in that department with three try assists to his name.
The Kiwi Test Centre has a stronger presence in defence as well, with a solid 76.5% tackle efficiency compared to his opposite's 65.4%.
While it's expected to be a battle of attrition through the middle of the field between two of the competition's biggest and best forward packs, the men on the edges will have plenty of influence on who takes home the 20th Anzac Day Cup.
What They Said
"I used to go to dawn services growing up and never really gave it much thought but since I’ve been here at the Roosters we’ve taken real ownership of it and gotten to know a bit more history around it." - Lindsay Collins
"To play on such a historic and important day for us as a country it’s always an honour. There’s a massive respect you want to uphold for the people who served and let us live the life we do in this country." - Angus Crichton
"It’s a contest we feel where we want to make people proud. The people that have served our country, we want to honour them in playing the best football possible and you always see both sides ripping in." - Brett Morris
When it comes to the Anzac Day Cup, there are few trophies in Rugby League that are as treasured and revered, and there will be plenty of motivation for both rivals to claim it as they round off 20 years worth of contests as the final siren sounds.