St George Illawarra Dragons players are preparing for former teammate Josh Dugan to play fullback for Cronulla Sharks in Thursday night’s local derby at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Dugan was named at right centre for the Sharks but he is set to revert to fullback in a backline shuffle, which involves Valentine Holmes moving to the wing after being targeted under the high ball by North Queensland Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston in the opening round.
Holmes, who scored a record six tries for Australia in the World Cup semi-final win over Fiji, will take over the wing berth vacated by rookie Sione Katoa, who suffered a broken jaw in the 20-14 loss
Dragons coach Paul McGregor told reporters at WIN Stadium on Wednesday that he wasn’t concerned where Dugan played but privately the team is expecting him to switch to fullback.
"They are both talented players in whatever position they play," McGregor said of Dugan and Holmes.
"Both are very good players, both run the ball with a lot of ammunition, they have got size and speed. They are both very similar players, they like to run the footy."
McGregor predicted Dugan would be keen to win against his former club but insisted there was no ill feeling between the Test star and the Dragons.
"He was very good for us over a number of years so he is going to enjoy playing against his old teammates and old coach," McGregor said. "We have just got to make sure his night isn’t a good one."
While he expects Dugan would provide Sharks coach Shane Flanagan with inside information about the Dragons' playing style, he said they knew how he played.
"You know his habits, there is no doubt about that but you have got to stop him, you have got to stop the things he is good at and try to expose the things he is not so good at," he said.
"That is the same with every other player but you do know a bit more about an individual when you have coached them for a number of years."