The Warriors will rely on their experienced forwards to help counter the Canterbury Bulldogs' monster-sized pack in tomorrow night's round three NRL clash in Dunedin.

Coach Stephen Kearney has brought senior front-rower Jacob Lillyman and first-choice second-rower Bodene Thompson into the Warriors starting side for the first time this season, as they aim to neutralise the Dogs' huge forward rotation, featuring captain James Graham, towering enforcer David Klemmer and ball-playing prop Sam Kasiano.

With 288-game veteran and fill-in captain Ryan Hoffman also in the second-row, vice-captain Simon Mannering at lock, and Issac Luke at hooker, injured Kiwis prop Ben Matulino is the only regular starter still missing from the Warriors pack, with Albert Vete making his 39th appearance in the front-row.

"It's just a little adjustment there," said Kearney. "Jacob's had two really strong performances coming off the bench. Bodene, who's had a couple of games under his belt now, is very experienced and he's a part of the leadership team, as is Jacob.


"Those guys, against a big forward pack this week, provide a great deal of experience and that's the best mix for us going into this game."

The changes enable Kearney to reduce the workload of 20-year-old forward Bunty Afoa, who will swap places with Thompson and come off the bench after two impressive 80 minute outings on the right-edge over the past fortnight.

Afoa topped the tackle count for the home side in both games against Newcastle (37) and Melbourne (49) but Kearney is wary of asking too much of the relative newcomer, against a Bulldogs side desperate for victory following consecutive defeats to the Storm and Roosters.

"It's certainly not a demotion and its more what I feel is the best mix for the group this week," he said.

"I thought Bunty would be better served this week coming off the bench for us.

"He's had two really big games and off the back of a five-day turnaround for the last game, I just thought it was a good opportunity, given the make-up of the group."

Afoa has played six NRL matches since debuting against the Titans last July, and while comfortable in the back-row, he anticipates a shift back into the middle alongside fellow interchange front-rowers Sam Lisone and Charlie Gubb.

The Warriors 2015 NYC Player of the Year is preparing for a torrid forward battle and expects an improved effort following last Friday's 26-10 loss to Melbourne.

"Now that Bodene's 100 per cent, he can come back and give his experience with Shaun [Johnson] on that right edge and I can go on the bench and bring a little bit of impact in the middle, because that's where I usually was," said Afoa.

"Our man key point is we've got to give the Doggies a fight. We can't let them try to overpower us. We've been working a lot with our middle and just trying to get our line speed and muscling up against them."