NRL: Three changes to Warriors lineup

Warriors' Sam Tomkins is dejected. Round two Telstra Premiership NRL match, Vodafone Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons, Eden Park, Auckland. Photo: photosport.co.nz
Warriors' Sam Tomkins is dejected. Round two Telstra Premiership NRL match, Vodafone Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons, Eden Park, Auckland. Photo: photosport.co.nz

Manu Vatuvei, Konrad Hurrell and Sione Lousi have all been added to the Warriors side to play the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.

Vatuvei missed last Saturday's disappointing 31-12 defeat to the Dragons at Eden Park through injury and illness, Hurrell again turned out for the club's NSW Cup side and Lousi was on bereavement leave following the death of his grandmother.

After scoring his 119th career try in the opening round against Parramatta, the 28-year-old Vatuvei comes back into the line-up for last weekend's debutant David Fusitua.

Hurrell and Lousi have both been included on a five-man interchange bench.

In the only other change to the starting lineup, Feleti Mateo has been named at loose forward with John Palavi, the starting No 13 in the first two matches, going to the bench alongside Hurrell, Lousi, Jacob Lillyman and Suaia Matagi.

"Koni [Hurrell] has been doing all that has been asked of him,'' coach Matthew Elliott said. "I thought he was by far the best player on the field in the New South Wales Cup match last week. He had something like 20 carries and his energy in defence was great.

"He has worked really hard on his fitness which was what had put him behind some people at the start of the season.''

Five-eighth Thomas Leuluai is getting close to a return, and trained fully with the squad today, and is targeting a return next weekend against the Wests Tigers in Wellington. The news is also better for utility Ben Henry, who was thought to have re-torn his ACL against the Dragons but is now thought to have a cartilage tear which would put him out for weeks rather than the season.

Saturday's match looms as very important for the Warriors after two inept performances to start their season but they travel to one of the most difficult venues in the NRL.

The Warriors won in Townsville four times in their first six visits between 1995 and 2002 but have since fallen to eight-straight defeats.

The game also marks Simon Mannering's 91st game as captain, which equals Steve Price's record for most games as captain for the club, and he's on target to break that record next week against the Wests Tigers in Wellington.

Also close to a landmark moment is centre Dane Nielsen who is in line to play his 99th NRL match this week.

Warriors squad to play North Queensland Cowboys at 1300Smiles Stadium, Townsville, on Saturday (11pm NZT): Sam Tomkins, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c), Feleti Mateo. Interchange (one to be omitted): Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi, Sione Lousi, John Palavi, Konrad Hurrell.

- APNZ

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