League: McFadden expresses faith in 'keen as mustard' Bukuya

By David Skipwith

Jayson Bukuya will play in the second row alongside Ben Matulino against the Knights. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jayson Bukuya will play in the second row alongside Ben Matulino against the Knights. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Warriors' re-jigged back-row formation gives the forward pack a powerful blend of size and skill, but coach Andrew McFadden is downplaying the significance of the changes for the match in Newcastle.

With Konrad Hurrell [hamstring] and Dane Nielsen [concussion] sidelined the Warriors have been forced to use utility Ben Henry in the midfield, prompting changes to the pack.

Jayson Bukuya will make his first appearance since the round 20 defeat to Manly in the second row alongside Ben Matulino, who has been used to great effect off the interchange bench since returning from knee surgery against Parramatta in round 18.

With captain Simon Mannering switching to fill the No13 jersey and Thomas Leuluai starting at hooker, the pack has a formidable shape about it but McFadden insists the tinkering is mostly injury-enforced.

"Some of those changes were forced and obviously the dynamic of the team changes as well," McFadden explained.

"Pushing Ben Henry out to the centres has an impact on our back-row but we're happy with the players that we've put in there. Ben Matulino has played some good football in the back row and so has Jayson Bukuya so I'm really comfortable with the team.

"He's [Bukuya] been going really well. He had a really good game two weeks ago and was 18th man for us on the weekend so he's fresh and ready to go and he's keen as mustard."

McFadden was non-committal when asked if he was settling on his strongest forward pack as the finals draw closer and maintained his selections were only relevant to this week's game.

"Not really, just basically what's best for this weekend. Obviously the dynamic has changed significantly from last weekend but that was just basically forced upon us with those injuries to our outside backs. We'll see. We'll see how they go but nothing is ever locked in."

After working his way back from a toe injury and concussion suffered against the Panthers, Bukuya is looking forward to working with halfback Shaun Johnson and causing problems out wide. "I haven't played too much football over the past couple of weeks so I'm just trying to find some form. I'm sitting on the right edge so hopefully I can have a good run and get some things going with Shaun," he said.

- NZ Herald

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