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Merritt returns for Rabbitohs

Published: 10:03PM Tuesday September 18, 2012 Source: AAP

  • Nathan Merritt (Source: Getty Images)
    Nathan Merritt - Source: Getty Images

South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt has been named to return from a shoulder injury for Saturday night's NRL preliminary final blockbuster Canterbury.

Barring injured veteran centre Matt King who is out for the year with a broken arm, the Rabbitohs will be at full-strength - with Merritt set to line up for his 200th first grade game.

Merritt damaged his shoulder in the qualifying final loss to Melbourne, and along with Jason Clark (ankle) was a late omission from the win over Canberra.

Merritt's return has resulted in Justin Hunt being pushed back to a six-man bench, where he has been joined by Clark.

Hooker Issac Luke has retained his starting berth after a standout display against the Raiders - his time in purgatory for a training ground altercation apparently over.

"He came in very well, obviously after everything that's gone on," Souths coach Michael Maguire said of Luke.

"Issac's a capable player, he's an outstanding part of our team.

"I thought the team laid the platform, our big forwards ran forward hard and got the quick play the balls which allows Issac to do what he does."

The Bulldogs stuck with the same side which beat Manly in week one of the finals, with Dene Halatau unable to force his way back into the team after he was named 18th man.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey named co-captain Jason King to play against Melbourne on Friday night, the prop having dispelled any concerns over the shoulder injury which limited his time against North Queensland last weekend.

Steve Matai returns from suspension in the centres, with Michael Oldfield left out.

The Storm have Will Chambers back in the centres, with Kiwi back-rower Sika Manu also returning to the back-row.

The bench has also had a makeover with veterans Jason Ryles and Todd Lowrie added to a seven-man bench.