NRL PREVIEW: Packer to start

Prop Russell Packer comes straight into the Vodafone Warriors starting line-up for their fifth-round NRL encounter with unbeaten South Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium today (kick-off 4.00pm; match day sponsor: Canterbury of New Zealand).


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


VODAFONE WARRIORS


1KEVIN LOCKE

2BILL TUPOU

5NGANI LAUMAPE

4KONRAD HURRELL

21MANU VATUVEI

6THOMAS LEULUAI

7SHAUN JOHNSON

8 SAM RAPIRA

9 NATHAN FRIEND

20 RUSSELL PACKER

11 FELETI MATEO

12 SIMON MANNERING (c)

13 TODD LOWRIE

Interchange:

10 BEN MATULINO

16 ELIJAH TAYLOR

17 PITA GODINET

24 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO


HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT