NRL: Warriors props reunited

The New Zealand Warriors Ben Matulino in action. Photo / Greg Bowker
The New Zealand Warriors Ben Matulino in action. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Warriors will be able to field their strongest propping rotation for the first time in 17 matches when they face the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday.

Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Russell Packer and Sam Rapira are set to be reunited for the first time since their round 13 defeat to Melbourne in Auckland on June 3.

Rapira and Packer are listed to start as they did in Sunday's narrow 24-22 defeat to South Sydney with Matulino and Lillyman, who is returning from a one-week lay-off with an ankle injury, named on the interchange.

All have more than 100 NRL appearances and, together, have amassed almost 500 games.

Of the foursome, only Matulino has played all five matches so far this season with Packer making his first appearance of the year last Sunday.

"We've been heavily hit by injuries to our front rowers this season so it's a real positive to have these four experienced props back together at last," coach Matt Elliott said. "We've had various players filling the propping role for us so far this year and they've all done a terrific job in difficult circumstances."

It won't be easy in Canberra against a resurgent Raiders side who have won two of their last three games. Canberra Stadium has been one of the most challenging venues for the Warriors with just one win - in 1997 - in 10 visits. The only other success in the city was at Manuka Oval in 2001.

Elliott has named the same starting line-up used against the Rabbitohs last Sunday and has also recalled utility Ben Henry, who missed the match with concussion. Henry has been named on a five-man bench.

Dane Nielsen is still out with a rib cartilage injury, meaning Konrad Hurrell and rookie Ngani Laumape will again start in the centres. The pair were both impressive against the Rabbitohs, each scoring a try and Hurrell making 150m from 15 runs and Laumape 120m from 13 carries.

In that match captain Simon Mannering took his career tally to 170 appearances, moving into fourth-equal with Awen Guttenbeil on the club's all-time list behind Stacey Jones, Logan Swann and Lance Hohaia.

Utility Elijah Taylor is in line to play his 50th game and Feleti Mateo is eyeing up his 58th consecutive appearance.

The game will hold extra significance for four of the Warriors' coaching staff, who have strong connections with the Australian capital.

Elliott coached the Raiders from 2001-2006; assistant coach McFadden played 76 times for them from 1997-2001 and was assistant coach from 2010-2012; head strength and conditioning coach Carl Jennings had the same role with Canberra from 2001-2006; and Ruben Wiki played 225 of his 312 NRL games for the Raiders from 1993-2004.

Warriors side to play Canberra at Canberra Stadium on Saturday: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Ngani Laumape, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Jacob Lillyman, Pita Godinet, Ben Henry.

- APNZ

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