It will be Newcastle No.6 Kalyn Ponga’s third game partnering Mitchell Pearce, while Wighton will now have Williams organising the Raiders alongside him.
Williams impressed during the pre-season and played well for the Mounties in the NSW Cup last week.
“He’s got a torn oblique – stomach muscle. He’s been playing with it the last two weeks,” Stuart said.
“It’s too early in the season to keep playing with an injury like that so we decided to make sure we get it right.”
Raiders co-captain Jarrod Croker needs just eight points to jump into the top 10 for all-time leading points scorers in the NRL.
He has 1786 points from his 232 NRL games, seven points behind ex-Parramatta star Luke Burt.
Given Raiders-Knights games average a combined score of more than 60 over their past four meetings, plus Croker averages nine points against Newcastle, he’s a good chance to get there.
But he could only be there until Saturday night when Penrith five-eighth James Maloney could throw a kicking tee in the works.
Maloney’s on 1789 points, but Nathan Cleary has taken over the Panthers’ kicking duties.
Having blown out the rust, Croker hoped Jordan Rapana goes to another level against the Knights.
They’re a team the Canberra Raiders winger loves scoring against, with six tries in his past five games, including a hat-trick and that freakish golden-try in 2016.
Croker said the Raiders needed to have the momentum to ensure Rapana was at his devastating best.
“I hope so. I thought it was a pretty good return from Rapa,” he said.
“His trademark carries in yardage, like a lot of our boys, were a little bit disrupted [last week].
“We just got kicked right into a corner and we were running up a hill there in that first half just coming out of our corner and there wasn’t a lot [he could] do.
“Hopefully our possession game’s a lot more even for us [Friday] night, we start a lot better and we get a bit more free-running footy and that’s where Rapa’s at his best.”
Croker said the visitors wouldn’t lose much with Kurt Mann replacing Connor Watson (knee) at fullback.
The Raiders have put a focus on starting well this week after the Melbourne Storm ran over the top of them in opening 30 minutes.
Canberra co-captain Josh Hodgson said they needed to be more aggressive getting off their defensive line – something he felt their bench forwards were able to do, but they struggled with in the opening exchanges.
Raiders prop Josh Papalii has some responsibility to make that happen, with Hodgson revealing he regularly calls on his enforcer to lead the charge.
It will be especially important against a Knights pack boasting David Klemmer.
Klemmer has run for more metres than any other forward in the NRL.
“I often say to ‘Papa’, ‘We need you today mate’. And he knows that,” Hodgson said.
“Papa’s an Orgin frontrower, he’s a world-class player and he’s going to be your go-to man in the middle in terms of hitting and going forward. As Klemmer is for the Knights.
“I don’t think he needs to worry too much about Klemmer. When Papa’s on he’s pretty tough to stop. He’s like a little rock when you hit him. He’s one of our most consistent players and I love playing alongside him.”
NRL ROUND THREE
Friday: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium, 6pm. Tickets from Ticketek.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Hudson Young, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Corey Horsburgh. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. JJ Collins, 20. Bailey Simonsson, 21. Jack Murchie.
Knights squad: 1. Connor Watson, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Kalyn Ponga, 7. Mitchell Pearce (C), 8. David Klemmer, 9. Danny Levi, 10. James Gavet, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Sione Mata’utia, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Kurt Mann, 15. Aidan Guerra, 16. Mitchell Barnett, 17. Herman Ese’ese. Reserves: 18. Josh King, 19. Mason Lino, 20. Jamie Buhrer, 21. Brodie Jones.
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.