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An inexperienced and under-strength North Queensland already looking to the future welcome a battle-hardened and equally injury-hit Manly side determined to stay in finals contention.

The Cowboys, now led by interim coach Josh Hannay and with a likely line-up featuring around 50 per cent of players with less than 30 NRL games to their name, host a Sea Eagles squad guided by premiership-winning mentor Des Hasler and featuring half-a-dozen NRL centurians including playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans and the bulk of their starting pack.

Both sides put in courageous performances against premiership front-runners in round 10 but only Manly came away with the points after holding off a Parramatta comeback despite further injuries to an already under-manned squad.

North Queensland never stopped trying but Penrith proved too classy, coming home over the top of a dogged Cowboys team buoyed by the efforts of rising star Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and debutant Dejearn Asi.

The Rundown

Team news

Cowboys: Murray Taulagi and Mitch Dunn are the new centre pairing replacing Connelly Lemuelu (cork) and Esan Marsters, while Ben Hampton joins the bench. Emry Pere was the other player to drop out of the match squad on game day after Lemuelu and Jordan McLean (calf) were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.

The Cowboys have won six of their past eight games against the Sea Eagles.

Sea Eagles: Moses Suli (sternum) has been passed fit to play. Addin Fonua-Blake returns from suspension at prop, pushing Taniela Paseka to the bench and Corey Waddell to the reserves.

Corey Waddell replaces Sean Keppie on the Manly bench with Tevita Funa also dropping out of the 17 an hour before kick-off. Abbas Miski and Haumole Olakau'atu were omitted from the squad 24 hours before kick-off. The Sea Eagles have won their past two games in Townsville. 

Key match-up

Jason Taumalolo v Jake Trbojevic: The veteran locks play different roles but both lead from the front and are vital to their side's hopes of victory. Taumalolo, acknowledged as the game's best No.13, is one of the game's most devastating runners and currently tops the rankings for post-contact metres and is second for total run metres.

Trbojevic will tackle himself to a standstill (No.9 for tackles with 430) and serves as an unusual playmaking option for the Sea Eagles while also ranking third in the NRL for support play.

Stat Attack

The Sea Eagles' win over Parramatta last week came despite finishing second best in a number of key statistical categories. Manly had just 43 per cent of possession and had almost 750 fewer running metres than the Eels. They also had nine fewer tackle breaks and almost 200 fewer kick-return metres.