Packer has just been cleared after a bicep injury severely disrupted his offseason programme.
He was originally due to make his comeback with the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup but, with Jacob Lillyman ruled out today with an ankle complaint, Packer comes straight back into the NRL.
Also ruled out today were centre Dane Nielsen (rib) and Ben Henry (concussion).
Nielsens absence sees two-game NRL rookie Ngani Laumape moving into the centres while Manu Vatuvei comes back on the wing missing the last three games.
With Packer starting at prop, Ben Matulino reverts to the bench where he started last Mondays match against North Queensland.
The bench now comprises Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Pita Godinet and Sebastine Ikahihifo.
Captain Simon Mannering makes his 170th appearance today, drawing level with former team-mate Awen Guttenbeil in fourth spot on the Vodafone Warriors listfor all-time appearances. Stacey Jones, Logan Swann and Lance Hohaia rank ahead of them.
Having secured their first win of the season by holding the Cowboys off 20-18 in a thriller on Monday, the Vodafone Warriors now take on the quality-laden South Sydney Rabbitohs. With the likes of Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, Issac Luke, Nathan Merritt, John Sutton and Adam Reynolds in their ranks theyve made a perfect start to the season by beating the Sydney Roosters, Cronulla, Penrith and Canterbury-Bankstown.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, April 7
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Dave Munro
8 SAM RAPIRA
9 NATHAN FRIEND
20 RUSSELL PACKER
11 FELETI MATEO
12 SIMON MANNERING (c)
13 TODD LOWRIE
10 BEN MATULINO
16 ELIJAH TAYLOR
17 PITA GODINET
24 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT