Tuimoala Lolohea will start at standoff while Bodene Thompson, David Fusitu’a and Ligi Sao have been brought into the squad for the Vodafone Warriors’ seventh-round NRL match against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday (7.30pm kick-off).
Lolohea moves from the wing to join halfback Shaun Johnson with Thompson back from a three-match injury absence to restore the club’s established back row combination.
With Thompson in the second row, Simon Mannering reverts to loose forward where he started in the first three rounds while Fusitu’a comes in on the wing with Lolohea’s shift to the halves.
“We’ve always seen Tui as moving into the halves at some stage,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden.
“We had him there late last season when Shaun was injured and he also played in the halves for the Kiwis. He provides great value wherever he plays on the field but, while he has done a terrific job on the wing, we see Tui’s future being in the halves. It’s a good time to bring him in.”
Named on an extended bench is back rower/prop Sao. Sidelined with a shoulder injury since the February 20 trial against St George Illawarra in Nelson, he made his return for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side in its 30-12 win over North Sydney on Sunday.
An NYC premiership winner with the Vodafone Junior Warriors in 2011, Sao made 21 NRL appearances for Manly from 2013-2015 – 20 of them last season – before coming home to Auckland. If he plays on Saturday night, he’ll become Vodafone Warrior #210.
McFadden has also made a switch in the front row, naming Sam Lisone to start with the vastly-experienced Jacob Lillyman set to be used from the interchange.
Veteran wing Manu Vatuvei hasn’t fully recovered from the hamstring injury which kept him out of last week’s clash against Manly. That has allowed Fusitu’a to return for his 16th NRL match after last appearing against the Roosters in July last season.
The Vodafone Warriors face a Canterbury-Bankstown side lying fifth on the ladder after an 18-12 win over the Storm in Melbourne last night. The Bulldogs are spending the rest of the week in the Capital for what is their home game.
The match will be the Vodafone Warriors’ ninth in Wellington and their fourth in the last four years.
Their squad includes four players with Wellington connections.
Ben Matulino has played in each of the last three matches there since 2013 while Gubb was in the NRL side last year. Mannering and hooker Issac Luke both spent time in the Capital in their junior playing days; Mannering appeared in the last three visits but this will be Luke’s first NRL game in Wellington.
This will be the 34th encounter between the two sides and the sixth time they’ve met in Wellington. The Bulldogs hold a 19-12 winning advantage overall with two draws. In 15 away games the record favours Canterbury-Bankstown 9-4 with two draws.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
7.30pm, Saturday, April 16
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 DAVID FUSITU’A
6 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 SAM LISONE
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN (c)
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 THOMAS LEULUAI
15 JACOB LILLYMAN
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 KONRAD HURRELL
18 LIGI SAO
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN