David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Leuluai making long-awaited return for Warriors

Utility Thomas Leuluai will make his long-awaited return for the Warriors against Manly on Saturday but will play a limited role off the bench as he eases his way back into action after 11 months on the sidelines.

Leuluai was yesterday named on an extended Warriors' bench but coach Andrew McFadden confirmed he would play his first match since suffering a season-ending ACL injury against Parramatta in round 10 last year.

The 30-year-old has been fit to play for much of the past month but the club have taken a conservative approach towards his comeback and are confident he is ready to return straight into first grade.

"He'll be playing," said McFadden. "He's 100 per cent so I'm letting you know that he'll be in the side.

Watch: Shaun Johnson talks to media ahead of Saturday's clash against Manly

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"There's always risk but the risk is no different if he was to play a lower grade game as well. But that's why we don't want to put too much pressure on him. He'll have a limited role on the weekend but something where we know he can give us impact.

"He's probably been right to go for two to three weeks now. We just wanted to make sure that he got some full training so he got full-contact. He's been pushing me, in my room, about when he can play. He's very excited to get back on the field. He feels very confident."

The Warriors are buoyed after back-to-back wins over the Knights and Roosters and their attack is starting to hum having piled on 13 tries over the past fortnight.

Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's game has developed as he's grown more accustomed to those around him, with the No1 having two try-assists against the Roosters before running in the long-range match-winner in extra time.

"That's something that I said right from the start was going to take time," said McFadden. "You could see the combinations building. It's not just Roger, it's Issac (Luke), it's Jeff (Robson), it's Shaun (Johnson), and the way they combine.

"It's a little bit more instinctive as opposed to robotic so we've just got to continue. That will get better."

Their defence remains the biggest concern, having leaked an average of 24.4 points in their first five games, but McFadden believes they are making progress. They scrambled well against the Roosters and the two tries conceded in the first half both came from kicks on the last tackle.

"We're improving defensively," he said. "I don't know if the points against are a true reflection. We've had some games where we have defended poorly, but against Melbourne two weeks ago we only had one line-break against us the whole game (and) we had a couple of tries off kicks.

Watch: Andrew McFadden talks to media ahead of Saturday's clash with Manly

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"On the weekend (it was) the same situation, we didn't have a line break in the first half. So we're defending pretty well in patches, we're just putting ourselves under too much pressure by dropping the ball. So if we can tidy that up you'll see the points go down."

The 10th-ranked Warriors remain wary of a Manly side sitting three spots below them on the NRL ladder and want to contain makeshift halves duo Apisai Koroisau and Dylan Walker.

"They're exceptional ball-runners both of them," McFadden said. "With Api, he's not a traditional half, but he's played a lot of hooker so he's got the ball skills. Obviously Walker's a dangerous runner. They've got a lot of dangerous individuals in their side so it's going to be a challenge."

- NZ Herald

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