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Debutant shapes as key for Canberra clash

It shapes as the biggest test yet for the nib Newcastle Knights.

The Canberra Raiders are unbeaten and hungrier than ever after falling at the final hurdle in 2019, and are the first top eight side from last year facing the Knights in 2020.

However, the Knights have every reason to go into this one confident of getting a result, with Club legend Andrew Johns laying down what he believes will be the blueprint for a red and blue victory at Campbelltown Stadium.

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Interestingly, the 8th Immortal claimed young gun Tex Hoy, who debuted at fullback last week and has been named on the bench for the clash with the Raiders, will be crucial if the Knights are to take two points home with them on Sunday.

"He's a player of the future Tex, and you could see the longer the game went (against Penrith), the more he wanted the ball and the more he wanted to impose himself on the game," Johns said.

"If they nail that two-on-one late...he would've won the game for them.

"I see him as a real good foil for Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga."

McCullough's got that experience, and defensively he's really strong.

Andrew Johns

The Novacastrians are unbeaten themselves and are coming off a performance labelled by Johns as 'the most courageous he's ever seen from a Knights team."

The Knights are also welcoming Ponga back into the side, while Pearce will also take his place should he pass concussion protocols in the lead up to Sunday afternoon.

However, one player they will be without is the injured Connor Watson, opening the door for Andrew McCullough to make his Club debut at No.9.

"McCullough's got that experience and defensively he's really strong," Johns said.

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"He's a traditional dummy-half, so his service to Mitchell Pearce will be dynamite.

"I think it's a great in."

On the other side of the fence, Johns was quick to identify the Green Machine threats the Knights must close down.

"I think their back row is dynamite," he said.

"The combination of the two Englishmen around the ruck, Josh Hodgson and George Williams, it showed up last week against Melbourne.

"It's going to be a tough game."