Parramatta are taking no chances with fullback Bevan French as they turn their attention to a first NRL top-four finish in 12 years.
The Eels are guaranteed to move into the top four with a win over last-placed Newcastle on Friday but look set to do it without their No.1 because of a hamstring injury.
The hype is building in Sydney’s west after Brad Arthur’s side strung together six wins in a row – the first time they have done so since they made the grand final in 2009.
With Cronulla and Brisbane facing off on Friday night, two points will see the Eels jump into fourth.
The Eels haven’t finished in the top four since their minor premiership win under coach Brian Smith in 2005 and Arthur’s side is charging at the right time of year.
“It’s exciting, you can sense the excitement around Parramatta, you can sense the excitement in the playing group,” Arthur said
“You work all year to try and play finals football, we’re no different from any other club and it has been a long time.
“We need to make sure we continue to play to our standards and expectations.”
The Eels look set to rule out French for the clash as they gear up for a finals push.
After French sat on the sidelines during the second half of last week’s win over Canterbury, Arthur said he would be taking no risks.
French is in form – having scored in each of his past six matches – and key to their chances after Clint Gutherson was ruled out for the year with an ACL injury.
“He’ll train today but it’s unlikely, we don’t want to take a risk with him,” Arthur said.
Will Smith and Josh Hoffman have been named on an extended bench and with one to come into the side should French be ruled out.
The Knights have shifted Dane Gagai to fullback to cover the loss of Nathan Ross (back) while veteran Shaun Kenny-Dowall returns.
The game will also be Eels skipper Tim Mannah’s 200th first grade match and Arthur urged his charges to do it for their teammate.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Eels have now won nine of their past eleven games at their adopted home ground ANZ Stadium.
* The Knights’ victory over the Warriors last week represented their first back-to-back home wins since rounds one and four in 2015.