Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has some concerns about rushing halfback Mitchell Pearce back too soon from a hamstring injury, but says young utility Jackson Hastings is ready to steer the NRL title favourites into the finals.
Pearce suffered the injury in last week's win over Brisbane and will miss at least the Roosters' last two regular-season games against Manly and South Sydney and possibly some of their finals campaign.
Asked how concerned he was about rushing Pearce back, Robinson said: "... a little bit. He needs to take it slow for the first couple of weeks.
"The technical bit where that hamstring needs to bind is very important.
"So the first couple of weeks needs to be good sleeping, eating and not as much movement and we'll reassess that after the first two weeks."
With Pearce out, 19-year-old Hastings will start at halfback, something he has done just twice this season, although he had stints in different positions off the bench in several other games.
However, Robinson was confident the son of legendary Roosters halfback Kevin Hastings had what it took to direct the title-chasing side around the field heading into a finals campaign.
"We brought him in at the end of last year and he's played many games this year - he's ready to go," Robinson said.
"He needs to get some time to prove that over the next couple of weeks."
Pearce is one of several stars missing from the side for Friday night's Brookvale Oval clash when they will aim for an 11th straight win.
Fellow backs Michael Jennings and Shaun Kenny-Dowall are also out.
Another big loss is prop and forward leader Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Brisbane.
"It's obviously disappointing missing Jared and Mitchell for extended periods of time, but the boys have moved on," Robinson said.
He felt the return from a dislocated wrist of prop Sam Moa would help offset the loss of Waerea-Hargreaves, although the Kiwi made it clear he alone wouldn't be able to compensate for the absence of their champion front-rower.
"A very big loss, Jared. There's no way we could replace Jared," Moa said on the Roosters' website.
"It's disappointing, but there's a lot of guys in our forward pack who are going to have to step it up and I'm one of them.
"We've all spoken about it. We all have to contribute to our style of footy and we all need to up our game by five or 10 per cent."