Rapira to make Warriors debut

Steve Rapira's first NRL match for the Warriors has been delayed by a knee injury which sidelined him after he had appeared in all four trials in February. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Steve Rapira's first NRL match for the Warriors has been delayed by a knee injury which sidelined him after he had appeared in all four trials in February. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Off-season signing Steve Rapira will make his long-awaited first-grade debut for the Warriors on Saturday against the Roosters.

Rapira has been named on the bench today for Saturday night's clash at the Sydney Football Stadium.

After making 26 appearances for North Queensland in 2009 and 2010, the 22-year-old's first NRL match for the Warriors has been delayed by a knee injury which sidelined him after he had appeared in all four trials in February.

In recent weeks he has returned to action with the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup, earning him selection on the interchange bench this week replacing Ukuma Ta'ai, who is out with a knee injury.

But while he finally comes into the side he'll have to wait to achieve one of his goals of playing in the NRL alongside his older brother Sam (24), who is out of action after dislocating his thumb playing for the Kiwis in the Anzac Test against Australia on May 6. Earlier this year the Rapira brothers played together for the Warriors for the first time in the trials against Parramatta and Burleigh.

Steve Rapira joined the Cowboys after playing for the Junior Warriors in the NYC's first season in 2008 but signed to return home last year.

"It's been a frustrating start to the season for Steve but it's a real positive for us to have him ready now with Ukuma out," said Warriors coach Ivan Cleary.

Another injury has forced a change on the bench with utility Lance Hohaia out with a sternum complaint. Hohaia operated as the interchange dummy half in the last three wins against Gold Coast, Newcastle and South Sydney with Kevin Locke starting at fullback.

Shaun Berrigan takes Hohaia's place.

Returning in his starting role in the front row is recalled Queensland Origin prop Jacob Lillyman, who was unavailable for the 12-6 win over South Sydney. With Lillyman - just re-signed to the end of 2013 - back Kiwi international Ben Matulino reverts to the bench.

Lewis Brown, who was on the interchange against the Knights and the Rabbitohs, teams up in the centres again with captain Simon Mannering. Brown will play his 50th NRL match on Saturday night while second rower Feleti Mateo will make his 100th career appearance, his 12th for the Warriors after playing 88 times for Parramatta.

After winning their last five matches on end - and seven of their last eight - the Warriors head into this weekend's round sitting fifth on the points table with 16 behind St George Illawarra (22) plus Melbourne, Manly and North Queensland, all on 18. Their 7-4 win-loss record is one of the best starts to a season in the club's history.

If the Warriors beat the Roosters this weekend, they'll equal the club's second-best winning run of six set in 1995. The record is eight wins in 2002.

WARRIORS
1
KEVIN LOCKE
2
KRISNAN INU
3
LEWIS BROWN
4
SIMON MANNERING (c)
5
MANU VATUVEI
6
JAMES MALONEY
7
BRETT SEYMOUR
8
RUSSELL PACKER
9
AARON HEREMAIA
10
JACOB LILLYMAN
11
FELETI MATEO
12
ELIJAH TAYLOR
13
MICHEAL LUCK
Interchange:
14
SHAUN BERRIGAN
15
JEREMY LATIMORE
16
BEN MATULINO
17
STEVE RAPIRA

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