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Scott Bailey

Luai headlines big-name NRL returns

Jarome Luai has been named for an early return for Penrith this week against the Warriors. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Penrith have opted against holding back Jarome Luai's return, with the NSW star to headline several big-name comebacks on the eve of the finals.

Luai was on Tuesday named in the Panthers' No.6 jersey to face the Warriors in what looms as his first game since injuring his knee in round 19.

There had initially been thoughts Penrith would play it safe with their five-eighth, particularly with the minor premiership already wrapped up.

But Luai has been confident for at least a week that he is ready to return, with the No.6 now given two matches to return to his best before the finals.

His comeback coincides with that of James Fisher-Harris, who will be back from a two-match suspension against the Warriors on Friday night.

It means Nathan Cleary remains the only big name player out for the Panthers, with his ban for a dangerous throw set to end in week one of the finals.

The Panthers are also not the only team bolstered by returns.

Crucially, the Sydney Roosters will have forwards Siosiua Taukeiaho (cheekbone) and Lindsay Collins (concussion) back against Melbourne on Thursday.

Needing to win to shore up a top-eight spot before the last round, the pair will come off the bench, with in-form duo Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Matt Lodge keeping their starting spots.

Melbourne will also have Felise Kaufusi back from personal leave following the death of his father, while Xavier Coates is being monitored following a head knock.

A win would secure the Storm a top-four spot while a loss could send them into the final round needing victory to seal the second chance in the finals.

Cronulla have received a boost to their top-two hopes, with Siosifa Talakai back from a shoulder injury two weeks out from the playoffs.

The Sharks and North Queensland are level on 34 points in the battle to finish second and earn a home final. Cronulla plays its last two matches against Canterbury and Newcastle, while the Cowboys - who enjoy a far greater points differential over the Sharks - meet South Sydney or Penrith.

The Cowboys will also enter those matches without Tom Dearden after he required surgery on a ruptured testicle, with Scott Drinkwater set to play halves for the first time this year and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow slotting in at fullback.

Meanwhile, Souths have left out Jaxson Paulo for Saturday night's clash after his tough night against Penrith last week, with Izaac Thompson to play wing.

In-form Rabbitohs prop Tom Burgess also returns from a groin injury.

Elsewhere, Aaron Woods is set to have the second year of his St George Illawarra contract activated after being named to start against his former club Wests Tigers.

The second year on Woods' deal was contingent on him playing 18 matches for the Dragons this year, with the veteran prop having so far featured in 17.

And Gold Coast will debut Klese Haas against Newcastle, with the younger brother of Brisbane prop Payne to come off the bench and Jarrod Wallace pushed back to reserves.

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