David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Kata rapt with Vatuvei return

Solomone Kata of the Warriors dives over to score a try. Photo / Getty Images
Solomone Kata of the Warriors dives over to score a try. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors centre Solomone Kata says Manu Vatuvei's presence will boost his confidence as he prepares to contain Broncos speedster James Roberts in tomorrow's clash against Brisbane at Mt Smart Stadium.

Kata returns to his customary left-centre role after missing the Warriors' last-start defeat to Canberra while serving a one-match suspension for making dangerous contact on Penrith's Jamie Soward in the round 10 loss to the Panthers in Christchurch.

He is looking forward to reuniting with Vatuvei, who returns from a three-game lay-off after he was demoted to reserve grade for one match and then granted medical leave following his involvement in the recent prescription pills and energy drinks scandal.

"I'm happy to have him back on my side," said Kata. "He always gives me confidence in my defence and also in my attack. It's good to have him back and I'm sure he's ready to go."

The pair are well aware of the threat posed by Roberts, one of the fastest players in the NRL, and understand they need to work together to shepherd him infield and limit his chances to use his pace.

"He's a pretty tough guy," Kata said of his opposing centre. "I've played against him a few times, so I know what I need to do to stop him. He's pretty quick but I won't let him get on my outside and will work to keep pushing him towards my inside shoulder."

Vatuvei echoed Kata's comments and although wary of Roberts' pace is confident they can nullify his impact with a straight line of rushing defence.

"He's pretty quick so we've just got to be up in his face every time and I know Solo [Kata] can do that," said Vatuvei.

"I'll try to not let him get on my outside because I don't think I'll be fast enough to try and catch him, so I've just got to be smart and work together with my inside.

"The last time we played, Solo got one on top of him and I know that he'll come back and want to play well, too."

The Warriors' struggling attack will benefit from Kata's return, with the 21-year-old the side's top try-scorer this season with eight in 10 appearances.

The Tongan international's one-match ban interrupted a run of 34 consecutive games since his NRL debut in round one last year, underlining his reputation as one of the side's most consistent performers.

However, Kata's powerful and driving around-the-hips tackling has seen him sail close to the wind with match officials. While opposition ball-runners are learning to avoid him, he acknowledges his technique needs refining.

"My defence is slowly getting better but I still need to focus more on my tackling," he said.

"I need to work on my technique because I was getting put on report for lifting them up and putting them into the ground but that just happens and that's what I want to fix up."

- NZ Herald

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