AN unscheduled four-hour stopover en-route to Newcastle yesterday has 'fuelled' the Cowboys for tonight's vital clash with the Knights.
Rather than spend the downtime lounging around Brisbane Airport bored, restless and uncomfortable, the players dined at a trendy Italian restaurant in nearby Racecourse Road, topping up on carbohydrates.
"Our original flight to Brisbane was cancelled, so we had to catch an earlier one - four hours earlier," said Cowboys GM of football, Peter Parr.
"It was not an ideal situation, but we made the best of it by having lunch at a restaurant near the airport. We have eaten there before and the food is great for the boys."
Parr confirmed that 18 players had travelled to Newcastle with Scott Bolton and Michael Morgan added to the squad to cover for the suspended James Segeyaro and the possibility that Johnathan Thurston might be a late withdrawal.
Although Thurston - concussed last weekend when hit late and high - passed a compulsory cognisance sports test on Thursday, he remains in some doubt. Coach Neil Henry won't decide the final make-up of his team until just before kick-off, but Thurston is expected to start, Aaron Payne will play 80 minutes and Bolton will be added to an all-forward bench.
But while the Cowboys appear set to go in to the game with one specialist dummy half, the Knights will tonight blood a 26-year-old. From Bellingen, hooker Chris Adams has been in the Knights system since 2010 following a stint with North Sydney.
Evarn Tuimavave passed a fitness test yesterday and will play, with Richie Fa'aoso to drop off a bench that includes 2012 new boys Willie Mason, Adam Cuthbertson and Alex McKinnon.
On the back of their stunning win over the Dragons last week, the Cowboys are expected to win comfortably - and will unless the Knights forwards can finally gain some control.
But major interest centres on the form of numerous players on the fringe of State of Origin selection.
Cowboys James Tamou, Tariq Sims, Matt Bowen and Ashley Graham will have the spotlight focused on them, as will Jarrod Mullen (Knights).
Out-of-form Newcastle fullback Darius Boyd is a certainty for Queensland selection, but needs a big game to boost his shattered confidence.
Scottish-born Knights winger James McManus reaches a significant milestone tonight - his 100th NRL appearance.
Across the Tasman two giant packs clash in what shapes as a vital clash for the Warriors and Roosters, with both sitting just outside the eight.
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