David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Warriors make changes for Broncos clash

Shaun Johnson's try in Melbourne has been a season highlight. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Johnson's try in Melbourne has been a season highlight. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden has made three changes to his pack for Saturday's round 15 NRL clash against the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium.

With Ben Matulino sidelined after minor knee surgery, captain Simon Mannering will fill the void in the second-row, while Sebastine Ikahihifo will slot in at loose forward in his 10th consecutive appearance this season. The third change sees prop Sam Rapira reclaim a front-row spot while Suaia Matagi moves to the interchange bench.

Utility Ben Henry and prop Charles Gubb have also been recalled to the bench, alongside Matagi and Feleti Mateo, meaning hooker Siliva Havili will again line up for the NSW Cup side.

"It's disappointing losing Ben Matulino but a real positive having Ben Henry back at the same time. His versatility gives us options on the bench," McFadden said.

"There's also encouraging news about Ben Matulino. His surgery on his (right) knee went well last week and we're now expecting him back against Parramatta.

With another bye to come it means he would miss only two games all up."

Henry has missed the last two games against Newcastle and South Sydney with a knee complaint while Gubb is set to play his third match this season after last appearing in the round seven encounter with St George Illawarra in April.

The 23-year-old turned out for the club's NSW Cup side in last Saturday's 16-12 win against Cronulla in Gisborne while the previous week he travelled to Perth with the NRL squad but didn't play.

Saturday's match is the first of three consecutive home games for the Warriors, with the club's second bye separating their round 16 clash against the Penrith Panthers (June 29) and their round 18 appointment with the Parramatta Eels (July 12).

The Broncos are currently in fifth place on the NRL ladder on 18 points, while the Warriors are in 11th spot on 14 points, just two points off a top eight berth. In their last four outings the Broncos have beaten Gold Coast (home), Wests Tigers (away), Manly (home) and Canberra (away); while both they and the Warriors enjoyed a bye round last weekend.

The Warriors did the home and away double against Brisbane last year, winning 56-18 at Suncorp Stadium and then 18-16 four weeks later in Auckland.

There is only four weeks between this year's home and away clashes with the two sides meeting in Brisbane again on July 19.

The Warriors have won each of the last three matches against the Broncos at Mt Smart and have taken out five of the last six against them at the venue.

Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins, 2. David Fusitu'a, 3. Konrad Hurrell, 4. Ngani Laumape, 5. Manu Vatuvei, 6. Chad Townsend, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 9. Nathan Friend, 10. Sam Rapira, 11. Jayson Bukuya, 12.Simon Mannering (c), 13. Sebastine Ikahihifo.

Interchange: 14. Feleti Mateo, 15. Suaia Matagi, 16. Charles Gubb, 17. Ben Henry.

- Herald on Sunday

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