St George Illawarra possess plenty of backline magicians but Warriors forward Ben Matulino says his side must shut down two key members of the Dragons' pack in this evening's match in Wellington.

The towering forward says his side have been burned on numerous occasions by Dragons and New South Wales State of Origin back-rower Trent Merrin, who is listed to start off the bench at Westpac Stadium in his return from a four-week suspension.

Matulino also rates in-form Dragons prop and former age grade rival, Leeson Ah Mau, as another major threat, as the ninth-placed Warriors look to snap a three-game losing run.

"Every time I've played against Trent Merrin he's been the stand-out for their team and he always plays a big part in them beating us," said Matulino.


"And the way Leeson's been going up-front; he's been playing a lot of minutes and getting through a lot of work as well. Those guys for me are the two majors.

"I played with Leeson through the age grades and Junior Kiwis so I've grown up playing against him and I know him pretty well.

"He's played a couple of seasons now and I remember back as a young fella he was always destined for big things and it's great to see that he's having the best season of his career so far."

The seventh-placed visitors arrive in the capital level with the Bulldogs and Warriors on 22 points. They broke a seven-match run of losses with last Sunday's flamboyant win over the Knights in Newcastle.

Both sides are desperate to improve their finals prospects and while the Warriors are wary of the Dragons' backline talent, Matulino says it's the forwards' job to limit their impact on attack.

"The young centre Euan Aitken and obviously Josh Dugan and Benji [Marshall] and his halves partner Gareth Widdop, they run the show," he said.

"The way Benji played last week got a lot of people talking so obviously he's one we need to watch. But we need to shut that down by stopping their forwards."

After starting the season with a focus on playing prop, injuries to second-row pair Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson have seen the Wellington-born 26-year-old chosen to start out on the right edge for the second week in a row.


"I spoke to Cappy [coach Andrew McFadden] at the start of the year and he said, 'don't worry about playing back-row this year because we've got two 80-minute second-rowers'.

"But over the last two months he's been chucking me into the second-row [at training] just in case there were injuries. He told me last week that I was playing back-row and he started laughing and I was cracking up as well.

"It's all good. Cappy's [McFadden] made some changes and thinks this is the right team so I'm backing him."

With no Shaun Johnson in the No7 jersey many critics have dismissed the Warriors chances of a top eight finish but Matulino insists belief within the club remains strong.

"Three weeks ago when we were in the top four a lot of people were patting us on the back and it's quite strange how things can change over that time. We just need to focus on those parts where we went wrong against the Sharks and really bring it this week."