David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Simon Mannering returns to aid Warriors against huge Raiders pack

The Warriors face a test of their forward strength against a powerful Canberra pack but are buoyed by the return of lock Simon Mannering for Saturday's Yarrow Stadium clash in New Plymouth.

Mannering returns having missed the Warriors last two games against St George Illawarra and Penrith and the Kiwis transtasman test defeat to the Kangaroos, after suffering a deep facial cut while making an innocuous looking tackle on Storm forward Tohu Harris during the Warriors' heavy Anzac Day defeat to Melbourne.

An accidental elbow from his New Zealand test teammate completely severed the muscles below his mouth although the marvels of plastic surgery mean there is very little exterior evidence of the gruesome gash.

"Tohu told Hoffy (Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman) after the game that his elbow was pretty sore," Mannering joked of the incident.

"But he was very apologetic afterwards and I told him it wasn't his fault at all. It could have been a lot worse if I had done something to my jaw.

"It came up good so I'm looking forward to getting back into playing."

With the 29-year-old former captain back on board, and hooker Issac Luke and prop Ben Matulino moving off the bench to reclaim their starting spots after form-related and disciplinary demotions, the Warriors will field their most experienced starting pack for the first time this season.

Mannering was missed around the middle of the ruck in last Saturday's 30-18 defeat to Penrith, and Warriors coach Andrew McFadden says his presence is essential against a Raiders pack featuring the size and hitting power of Kangaroos back-rower Josh Papalii, prop Shannon Boyd and Kiwi bench trio Jeff Lima, Joseph Tapine and Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Adding a touch of class to the green machine's attack is England hooker Josh Hodgson, the current outright leader in the Dally M medal race.

"He's in very good form so our ruck defence is going to have to be really strong," said McFadden.

"Their ruck play is really threatening, particularly with Hodgson and the way he probes around off the back of those big guys, so it's obviously good to have Simon Mannering back there.

"He does a huge amount of work for us and that's had to be picked up (by others) in more recent times. I know he'll make a big difference for us."

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Symptomatic of the Warriors inconsistent form, the side's forwards have looked good for periods of matches without maintaining any dominance over 80 minutes in wins over the Knights, Roosters, Bulldogs and Dragons.

Slumped down in 13th place, Mannering knows the battle up front will hold the key to the Warriors hopes of improving their ladder standing.

"For sure," he said. "That's where every team likes to lay their platform and it just so happens that Canberra's got some extra big guys in there and a crafty nine. So that's where it will all start and it's a good challenge for us in the middle."

Watching on from the sidelines had provided a fresh perspective on his side's trouble areas, and Mannering says it was evident in Christchurch how much the Warriors hurt themselves with unforced errors and badly timed defensive lapses gifting the result to Penrith.

"You definitely notice that," he said. "We probably lost our way in the second-half with errors and then to let two tries in in the last five minutes, we can't let that happen.

"We'll bounce back from that for sure but it's a common theme for us. At times we're probably forcing it a little bit too much."

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