NRL: Warriors name strong line-up to face Penrith

Warriors coach Matthew Elliott will field close to his best side for the club's second pre-season trial match against Penrith in Hamilton on Saturday and has given Elijah Taylor the chance to establish himself at hooker.

Elliott fielded a young and inexperienced side in the 42-24 defeat to the Gold Coast last weekend but has rung the changes for the Panthers game.

New signings Thomas Leuluai and Dane Nielsen both feature. Leuluai will start in the halves after last playing for the club in 2004 and Nielsen will make his first appearance for the Warriors since winning last year's NRL title with Melbourne.

Elliott has given Taylor the chance to claim the starting hooker's job in the absence of regular No 9 Nathan Friend, who will miss the start of the season after having further shoulder surgery this Thursday.

Taylor has spent time at hooker in a number of NRL games but is more accustomed to playing off the back of the scrum and was viewed as the natural replacement for Micheal Luck, who retired at the end of last season. Pita Godinet and Alehana Mara are other candidates to play at hooker.

Shaun Johnson and Feleti Mateo, who played for the NRL All Stars, will also start, as will powerful propping duo Sam Rapira and 2013 Player of the Year Ben Matulino.

"We always planned to run with our younger players against the Titans,'' Elliott said. "It was a really productive trial for us, giving us a good chance to have a look at our depth.

"As our only trial close to home, this match in Hamilton is a step up. We're able to call on most of our senior players and we're all looking forward to playing at Waikato Stadium in front of our members and fans. It's great taking games to places around the country like Hamilton and we hope a huge crowd turns out for it.''

Apart from Friend, Jerome Ropati, who's working his way back from knee surgery, Russell Packer (bicep) and the club's other 2012 NRL grand final winner Todd Lowrie, who has returned home following the death of his grandfather. Sione Lousi is out for six months after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Titans.

Warriors side to play Penrith at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Saturday (4pm): Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Ben Henry, Simon Mannering (c), Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Dominique Peyroux, Jacob Lillyman, Pita Godinet, Alehana Mara, Ngani Laumape, Carlos Tuimavave, Sam Lousi, Sebastine Ikahihifo, John Palavi, Glen Fisiiahi, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Steve Rapira, Charlie Gubb.

- Hamilton News

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