Jerome Ropati will play his first match of his 11th NRL campaign and Sam Rapira (pictured) will lead the Vodafone Warriors for the first time in tonights seventh-round Anzac Day encounter with the 2012 premiership-winning Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park (7.00pm local time; 9.00pm NZT). Photo: Photosport.


Ropatis 2011 and 2012 campaigns were both severely truncated by knee trouble requiring season-ending surgery each time.


He has worked his way back to fitness with three games for the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup before being named in the squad to travel to Melbourne on Tuesday. He was confirmed to start after coming through the teams final run in Melbourne yesterday.


Ropati (28), who started his NRL career in 2003, will start at left centre tonight with Ngani Laumape moving to the wing and Glen Fisiiahi, originally named to start on the wing, now 18th man.


There had been a slight chance captain Simon Mannering would be cleared late to come into the side after being ruled an unlikely starter following the calf injury which prevented him leading the Kiwis against Australia last week. However, while Mannering trained well on his own yesterday he has been ruled a non-starter tonight.


His confirmed absence means Rapira takes over the captaincy for this match in what will be his 135th NRL appearance.


The rest of the line-up is as named as the Vodafone Warriors face a Melbourne side on a record run of 14 straight wins.


As well as Ropati returning, the Vodafone Warriors also have prop Jacob Lillyman back as well as utilities Elijah Taylor and Pita Godinet. They all missed the loss to Canberra on April 13.


Lillymans return ensures the Vodafone Warriors will have their experienced front row rotation at work for the first time in 18 matches stretching back to the clash against the Storm in Auckland on June 3.


It was hoped Lillyman, Rapira, Russell Packer and Ben Matulino would be reunited against the Raiders but Lillyman hadnt fully recovered from an ankle injury.


While Lillyman, Taylor, Ropati and Godinet are all named, Manu Vatuvei is out for up to three weeks after aggravating his sternum injury in the warm-up for the clubs last clash against Canberra on April 13. Despite being in some discomfort, Vatuvei scored two tries and played the full 80 minutes in a display which saw his peers named him the players player of the day.

Also ruled out is former Storm centre Dane Nielsen. He is still troubled by the rib complaint which forced him off the field early in the Canberra encounter.


The game will have special significance for loose forward Todd Lowrie, wholl line up against his old club for the first time since being part of the grand final-winning side last season.


While the Storm won the Michael Moore Trophy clash on Anzac Day last year, the Vodafone Warriors took out the 2011 contest 18-14.


VODAFONE WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM

AAMI Park, Melbourne

7.00pm, Thursday, April 25

Referees: Matt Cecchin and Henry Perenara


VODAFONE WARRIORS


1KEVIN LOCKE

2BILL TUPOU

18JEROME ROPATI

4KONRAD HURRELL

3NGANI LAUMAPE

6THOMAS LEULUAI

7SHAUN JOHNSON

8SAM RAPIRA (c)

9NATHAN FRIEND

10RUSSELL PACKER

11FELETI MATEO

12BEN HENRY

13TODD LOWRIE

Interchange:

14ELIJAH TAYLOR

15BEN MATULINO

16JACOB LILLYMAN

17PITA GODINET


HEAD COACH: MATTHEW ELLIOTT