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Cowboys v Knights: Best out after bubble breach; McLean back

North Queensland won't have any shortage of motivation to improve after they conceded 34 first-half points in last week's loss to the Wests Tigers.

Back at home after two weeks on the road, they have a great chance to make amends by challenging the high-flying Newcastle Knights.

While the injury-hit Cowboys are staring down the barrel of four consecutive losses, the Knights have surged into second place after dusting up Brisbane last weekend.

The Rundown

Team News

Cowboys: In late changes an hour before kick-off Francis Molo moves to the bench and Shane Wright is elevated to the starting side. The last two players omitted are Reuben Cotter and Jake Granville.

Former Test prop Jordan McLean makes an early return from a calf injury after being elevated to the second row with Mitchell Dunn omitted from the squad 24 hours out from kick-off because of a groin problem.

Rookie winger Connelly Lemuelu is out after the 19-man squad reduction due to a shoulder problem with Tom Opacic moving into the starting side from the reserves. The Cowboys have won four of their past five matches against the Knights.

Knights: The Knights are 1-17. Bradman Best has been ruled out after inadvertently breaching the NRL's COVID-19 protocols. The NRL loosened restrictions on players last Sunday to enable them to seek permission to visit family members outside their bubble but Best did not follow the process correctly. He's replaced by Enari Tuala in the centres.

Brodie Jones and Phoenix Crossland were dropped from the squad on Friday and Tautau Moga and Pasami Saulo were omitted an hour before kick-off. Knights second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon has scored three tries in three games against the Cowboys.

Key Match-Up

With North Queensland light on experience at the moment, Josh McGuire and Jason Taumalolo are charged with plenty of responsibility. They'll have to stand up against a raging-hot Knights forward pack led by David Klemmer and the in-form Saifiti brothers to give the Cowboys a chance.