NRL: Warriors drop Robson, Lolohea to start at five-eighth

By Niall Anderson

Jeff Robson of the Warriors. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Jeff Robson of the Warriors. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The return of Tuimoala Lolohea to the halves highlights several changes to the New Zealand Warriors for their clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs on Saturday.

Head coach Andrew McFadden has made four changes to the squad after last week's 34-18 loss to the Manly Sea Eagles, with Lolohea's shift being the major move.

An underwhelming start to the campaign for veteran half Jeff Robson sees him make way for Lolohea, with the electric runner set to link up with Shaun Johnson in a promising combination.

"We've always seen Tui as moving into the halves at some stage," said Warriors coach Andrew McFadden.

"We had him there late last season when Shaun was injured and he also played in the halves for the Kiwis. He provides great value wherever he plays on the field but, while he has done a terrific job on the wing, we see Tui's future being in the halves."

Lolohea's move into the middle has opened the door for David Fusitu'a to make a return to the wing, having not played in first grade since July last year.

Veteran winger Manu Vatuvei hasn't fully recovered from a hamstring injury, giving Fusitu'a the chance to add to his nine NRL tries.

There have also been significant movements in the forward pack, with Bodene Thompson returning to the second row after three games out with injury.

Thompson's inclusion pushes former skipper Simon Mannering back to loose forward, while Sam Lisone receives a starting berth as Jacob Lillyman drops to the interchange bench.

Versatile forward Ligi Sao has been named on an extended interchange - the former Manly player having recovered from a shoulder injury to be in line for a Warriors debut.

Sao is signed on a two-year deal, and returned to action in reserve grade on Sunday after two months out.

The Bulldogs have made a steady start to the season, holding a 4-2 record to sit one game off the pace set by the Brisbane Broncos.

Des Hasler's side are coming off an 18-12 victory over the Melbourne Storm, which featured immense performances from high profile forwards James Graham and Josh Jackson.

The match at Wellington's Westpac Stadium will officially be a home game for the Bulldogs, who have won all four games outside of their Belmore home base this season.

The Warriors will also have to overcome their poor record in Wellington, having won just one game from eight encounters.

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