NRL: Big boys called up for Battle of the Warriors

Ben Matulino. Photo: Andrew Cornaga
Ben Matulino. Photo: Andrew Cornaga

The Warriors will inject a few more regulars into the fray against UK Super League champions Wigan in Hamilton on Wednesday in a match dubbed the Battle of the Warriors.

Sam Rapira will captain the side and he will be joined by the likes of Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino, Jerome Ropati and Dane Nielsen. New recruit Chad Townsend will also back up from playing against the Gold Coast in the club's first pre-season game tomorrow.

None of the 16 players selected for next weekend's inaugural Auckland Nines will feature, meaning fullback Sam Tomkins will miss out on playing against his old club who are using the match as a warmup ahead of the World Club Challenge against the Roosters, the NRL champions, in Sydney on February 22.

A total of 19 contracted players have been named for the Hamilton encounter with the squad to be bolstered by several local players.

"This might be a trial but there's something very special about it,'' Warriors coach Matt Elliott said. ``For one it's an historic event because we're taking on Wigan for the first time but it's much more than that. The Wigan Warriors come here as one of the game's greatest clubs and also bring wonderful credentials with them after winning both the Challenge Cup and the Super League grand final last year.

"The trial is vital for Wigan ahead of the World Club Challenge against the Sydney Roosters but it's also important for us as we build towards our final preseason hit-out against Brisbane [in Dunedin on February 23].

"With this trial coming only three days after the Gold Coast match and three days before the NRL Nines, our depth is being tested this week but that's really what trials are about.''

Wigan fly out of England this weekend soon their opening Super League match against Huddersfield on Friday night. They're due to arrive in Auckland on Monday afternoon before transferring to Hamilton where they'll train on Tuesday morning. After the trial they'll set up base in Auckland where they'll train and attend the nines.

The two clubs have more of a connection than just their names.

Apart from Tomkins, Warriors general manager football operations Dean Bell has captained both Wigan and the Auckland club and worked for both as well.

Thomas Leuluai is having his second stint with his home club after playing for Wigan, education and welfare manager Jerry Seuseu has played for the two clubs and Frank Endacott has coached both.

Current Wigan forward Epalahame Lauaki is also a former Warrior while foundation Warriors Denis Betts, Andy Platt, Frano Botica and Phil Blake appeared for both clubs during their careers. Other dual representatives are Doc Murray, Brady Malam, Quentin Pongia and Iafeta Paleaaesina.

Warriors 19 confirmed to play Wigan at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Wednesday (7.30pm): Jordan Baldwinson, David Bhana, Siliva Havili, Jacob Lillyman, Mason Lino, Sam Lisone, Ben Matulino, Dane Nielsen, John Palavi, Agnatius Paasi, Nathaniel Peteru, Sam Rapira (c), Jerome Ropati, Michael Sio, Mason Tonks, Chad Townsend, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Albert Vete, Steve Waetford.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 19 Apr 2014 19:40:12 Processing Time: 652ms