NRL: Palavi earns Warriors start

John Palavi of the Warriors fends during a New Zealand Warriors NRL pre-season training session. Photo / Getty Images.
John Palavi of the Warriors fends during a New Zealand Warriors NRL pre-season training session. Photo / Getty Images.

Sam Tomkins, Chad Townsend and Jayson Bukuya were all expected to debut for the Warriors against the Eels on Sunday but less obvious was the choice of John Palavi as starting back-rower.

Palavi, 21, spent last season with the Auckland Vulcans after four years playing for the NYC but on Sunday gets his chance to cement a spot in the first-grade side.

"JP deserves his spot,'' Warriors coach Matthew Elliott said. "If you had told me last year that he was going to be our starting lock for this game I would probably have disagreed with you but he has performed right through the pre-season.

"His influence on players around him and what he did during the trial process was impressive.''

After missing the opening trial against the Gold Coast, Palavi started at loose forward against Wigan and Brisbane.

There's no place, however, for centre Konrad Hurrell who has been overlooked in favour of Carlos Tuimavave.

"Selecting Carlos was a tough call on Konrad,'' Elliott said. "Konrad played really hard against the Broncos but Carlos was impressive in the nines and then in Dunedin putting on two tries and getting one himself.''

Dane Nielsen and Manu Vatuvei have both recovered from the niggling injuries that saw them miss all three pre-season games as well as the Auckland Nines and will start. Glen Fisiiahi has won the battle for the right-wing spot over the likes of David Fusitua and Ngani Laumape.

Elliott has opted for a big bench, with Sione Lousi joining Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi and Feleti Mateo. It means there is no dummy-half cover, with Nathan Friend expected to play 80 minutes. Lousi missed all of last season with a serious knee injury.

Jerome Ropati has also been included in an extended bench.

Warriors side to play Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta, on Sunday (8.30pm): Sam Tomkins, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Carlos Tuimavave, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c), John Palavi. Interchange (one to be omitted): Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi, Sione Lousi, Feleti Mateo, Jerome Ropati.

- APNZ

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