Warriors lock Adam Blair has hosed down talk of a personal rivalry with Cowboys powerhouse Jason Taumalolo ahead of Saturday's NRL double-header clash at Mt Smart Stadium.
The former Kiwis teammates will line up against each other for the first time since Taumalolo switched allegiance and helped Tonga claim a stunning upset World Cup pool win over New Zealand in Hamilton last November.
Blair, as Kiwis captain, was critical of the late timing of Taumalolo's decision and felt his lack of communication was disrespectful to both the black and white jersey and former New Zealand coach David Kidwell.
But five months on, he downplayed suggestions of any lingering bad blood and said the Warriors need to focus on containing the Cowboys star-studded pack and halfback Johnathan Thurston rather than worry about any individual match-ups.
"It hasn't even crossed my mind," Blair said.
"We know they've got quality players throughout their team with the likes of JT and Matt Scott who are both international players and the guys around them, and they've got Johnathan Thurston as well, who can hurt you all over the park.
"There's no pinpointing the one person so there's no way that I'm going out to do something outside of our structures or processes that have been really good for us over the last month.
"It's important that we stick to what's been working with our processes and going out there and getting our jobs done individually and collectively as a group."
The 13th-ranked Cowboys began the season as title favourites but arrive in Auckland looking to kick-start their campaign following one win and three straight losses to the Broncos, Storm and Panthers.
The Warriors have gone unbeaten through the opening four rounds to sit second on the NRL ladder, but Blair says his side's forwards need to be prepared for a Cowboys backlash.
"They are an international pack and obviously they haven't started the way they would have liked to," he said.
"Everyone has them right up there as one of the best forward packs in the competition, if not the best team, so it's a focus on the middles and it's a challenge for us as a group to take another step in the right direction.
"It's a big ask for us to make sure that we turn up prepared for a tough game because they're going to want to come over here and turn their season around.
"We're not backing down and the boys are excited and keen."
The Warriors welcome back halfback Shaun Johnson from a groin strain, and veteran forward Simon Mannering will make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury, while prop Sam Lisone returns after serving a one match ban for dangerous contact in the round three win over the Raiders.
Blair also came under scrutiny from the match review committee following the match in Canberra, but avoided suspension with an early guilty plea, after he was sinbinned for a late shot on Raiders playmaker Aidan Sezer.
The 32-year-old admitted coach Stephen Kearney had previously reminded him of the need to improve his timing and said he was focused on changing some old habits.
"It's not on my mind but I spoke to Mooks maybe two weeks before that incident, about having a bit of awareness with timing and getting those things right.
"I am aware of it. I'm so used to doing it for so many years and it's been part of my job and this is the first time that I've even seen a charge for that.
"I need to make sure I get those tackles right and tackle someone with the ball not without it."
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