David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Foran close to making Warriors debut

Kieran Foran's increased involvement coincided with a lift in intensity at Warriors trainings this week. Photo / Photosport
Kieran Foran's increased involvement coincided with a lift in intensity at Warriors trainings this week. Photo / Photosport

Five-eighth Kieran Foran is just one training session away from being confirmed as a certain starter for his long-awaited Warriors debut against St George Illawarra in Sydney tomorrow.

Foran has taken big strides this week in overcoming a long-term shoulder injury and needs only to come through the side's captain's run unscathed before being cleared to play the Dragons at UOW Jubilee Oval.

The former Manly and Parramatta playmaker has not played in almost a year after injuring his left shoulder in the Eels' loss to Melbourne in round 11 last season.

He completed that match with the assistance of painkillers but the injury became season-ending when he was forced from the field a week later against Newcastle on May 30.

After several setbacks, the 26-year-old resumed full contact training two weeks ago and has so far met all the marks set for him by the Warriors medical staff.

Before last week's defeat to Canterbury, he ran and defended against the NRL side in a confidence-boosting training run. His shoulder absorbed both the impact of making strong tackles and being hit hard himself and put to ground in heavy contact.

This week, his increased training involvement coincided with an apparent lift in the side's intensity and he looked at home running and directing plays while throwing himself into everything on both sides of the ball.

His final test will come when the Warriors complete their preparations for their first transtasman trip of the season at Mt Smart Stadium this morning, before departing Auckland later in the day.

Despite such a long layoff, Foran - one of the best and toughest players in the game - possesses the experience and mental strength to approach his comeback game with confidence.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has no doubts he'll make a smooth transition into the team alongside Kiwis halves partner Shaun Johnson, and believes his presence will provide a boost after consecutive defeats to the Storm and Bulldogs.

"If he does play, you'll see the effect of that on Sunday," said Kearney. "I've got no doubt that it would [give the side a lift] but he's been part of the group for the whole pre-season. He's been in and out in terms of [team] training. That really hasn't changed.

"Players like that, that's when they come to life, on game day. They are that sort of competitive characters and he's from that mould."

He faces a tough initiation, with the Warriors having a terrible away record against the Red V and hopes high that he will provide an instant fix to the side's malfunctioning backline.

His return to Sydney will also bring added pressures, with local media eager to question him about a myriad of matters, including his controversial contract registration by the NRL last month, the uncertainty surrounding the suspension that stopped him from being eligible to play the first two rounds, his playing future beyond this season, and his numerous well-documented off-field dramas of the past 12 months.

A positive first hit-out and rare Warriors victory across the ditch will help provide more positive headlines but anything less will add only more weight on his newly repaired shoulder.

- NZ Herald

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