NRL: Rapira may yet face wrath of the Titans

By Steve Deane

Warrior's Sam Rapira. Photo / NZPA
Warrior's Sam Rapira. Photo / NZPA

He hasn't been named in an 18-man squad but senior prop Sam Rapira remains an outside chance of returning to the Warriors' line-up for Saturday night's crucial match against the Gold Coast Titans.

Rapira is yet to play this season after damaging his shoulder in a pre-season trial against South Sydney. Coach Brian McClennan last week said he hoped the 123-game veteran would be fit to face the Titans, however the Herald understands Rapira remains a borderline proposition.

There must also be a question over young centre Konrad Hurrell, who has been named on the bench after being removed early against the Bulldogs following a heavy head knock and an arm injury.

Hurrell has been impressive in bursts in his debut campaign but he has also taken some serious punishment in three truncated outings.

"He likes to carry the ball a lot but that is fatiguing him too," McClennan said after Sunday's 32-18 defeat by the Bulldogs.

"I'm being protective of him. You've got to [take] care with talent like that."

Whether that translates into a banged-up Hurrell taking his place on Saturday night remains to be seen. For now Hurrell has been named on the bench, with Jerome Ropati and Ben Henry slated to start in the centres.

Props Sione Lousi and Ben Matulino, who were injected from the interchange against the Bulldogs, have been named to start against the Titans, with Russell Packer and Ukuma Ta'ai moving to the interchange. Lewis Brown is again set to start in the back row with Feleti Mateo on an extended interchange that includes Junior Warriors captain John Palavi.

While repairing slow starts that have seen the club trail 0-16, 0-8 and 0-16 in three matches to date will be high on the agenda, McClennan was also disappointed with the way his team frittered away a glut of second-half possession against the Bulldogs.

"We went away from our structure, we played too off the cuff," he said. "In all our games so far when we have really worked within our systems and structures we have done fine. When we just play ad lib at times we get frantic. We've just got to learn to keep working within our systems and trust the structure to hold us through the tough periods in games.

"There's a lot we need to improve on, especially our defence and the way we're starting matches. There were some really good signs again, especially the long period of the match when we were dominating Bulldogs and scored 18 points to lead ... by two but we need to improve our effort across the whole match. We're committed to doing all we can to get things right."

* Brisbane's latest re-signing Dane Gagai will travel to Perth as 18th man with speculation he might see some action against South Sydney on Friday following the Broncos' decision to pull an offer to winger Gerard Beale this week.

WARRIORS

Mt Smart Stadium, 7.30pm Saturday

Kevin Locke
Bill Tupou
Ben Henry
Jerome Ropati
Manu Vatuvei
James Maloney
Shaun Johnson
Sione Lousi
Nathan Friend
Ben Matulino
Lewis Brown
S. Mannering (c)
Elijah Taylor

Warriors (from): Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, Konrad Hurrell, Ukuma Ta'ai, John Palavi.

TITANS

William Zillman
Steve Michaels
B. Thompson
Beau Champion
D. Peyroux
Jordan Rankin
Scott Prince (c)
Luke Bailey
Matt Srama
Nate Myles
Greg Bird
Mark Minichiello
Ashley Harrison

Titans (from): Luke Douglas, Matthew White, Ben Ridge, Kayne Lawton, Brenton Lawrence.

- NZ Herald

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