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With Newcastle Knights prop Korbin Sims to miss the next two matches, coach Rick Stone is confident in the squad's depth as preparation intensifies for Saturday's match against the Penrith Panthers.

David Fa’alogo has been named as starting prop while Pat Vaivai has been added to a five-man interchange.

“Dave’s a seasoned campaigner and he knows what to expect,” Stone said about Fa’alogo.

“It’s a good way to get him into the game a little bit, he hasn’t played big minutes in the first three weeks.

“It’s a good way to get him into the game and lift his time a little bit.”

Stone also holds Vaivai in high regard after his consistent performances in NSW Cup.

“Pat Vaivai has been the best forward in the NSW Cup and deserves his chance,” he added.

After making his NRL debut in Round 9 and earning NSW Cup Player of the Year in 2014, the Samoan born 23-year-old was offered a two-year contract extension during the off season. Fellow NSW Cup forward Sam Mataora re-signed at a similar time.

“We extended their contracts in light of what they did in NSW Cup last year," Stone said.

“The big test is to see if they can take the step up into the NRL and Patty gets his chance off two man of the match performances in the last two weeks.

“Pat’s an explosive runner, he has bit of footwork and is a little bit of a different shape.

“He played one game last year and hopefully when he gets his taste this weekend, he can play a few more this year.

“Korbin will get a little bit of a rest and a bloke like Patty Vaivai gets his chance and that’s the whole idea of a 30-man squad.”

Meanwhile, the bench will be finalised by the end of the week.

“Tyler (Randell) will be right in the mix until Friday when we make a few decisions on a few of those boys,” he said.

“We probably do need to get him some footy if he doesn’t get a chance to play.”

While the Knights’ have attracted attention by joining the 2014 premiers South Sydney Rabbitoh’s as the two undefeated teams in the opening three rounds, Stone assures the team’s focus is on their performances week-to-week.

“We’re not too worried about it, we are just worried about ourselves and where we can improve,” he said.

“We take each opponent as they come.

“You probably change things a little bit each week depending on who you play.

“You have the basic structure there and probably tend to lean towards a couple of different plays depending on who you’re facing.

“We have a standard sort of structure and formation that were are probably going to tinker a little this weekend and what we think is going t work for us.

“I think there’s improvement in everyone, particularly with our attack.

“Our fluency, consistency and composure needs to improve.

“We are still missing some opportunities, we’re continually working with Tyrone (Roberts) and (Jarrod) Mullo and Kurt (Gidley) and anyone who plays around those ball playing areas to scrutinize their decision making process and their execution process.

“Our kicking game was a little better last week and things like our kick pressure came into their own which helped us get a little bit of field position.

“There’s some good signs there, far from the finished product, but I’m comfortable where we are heading.”

Saturday March 28 – All 3 grades at Hunter Stadium
Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers
Gates open: 10.30am
NYC: 10.40am
NSW Cup: 12.40pm
NRL: 3pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
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