Ligi Sao will become Vodafone Warrior #210 after being confirmed to make his club NRL debut in tonight’s seventh-round match against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington (7.30pm kick-off).
An NYC premiership winner with the Vodafone Junior Warriors in 2011, Sao started his NRL career with Manly – making 21 appearances from 2013-2015 – before returning home this season.
He came back from a shoulder injury with the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side last week and was initially included on a five-man bench for tonight’s match.
Dropping off is Konrad Hurrell, who played for the ISP team in its 26-6 win over Newcastle earlier today.
The rest of the line-up is as selected with Tuimoala Lolohea paired in the halves with Shaun Johnson for the first time and Bodene Thompson returning in the second row. Simon Mannering reverts to loose forward where he started in the first three rounds while David 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.”
The Vodafone Warriors face a Canterbury-Bankstown side lying fifth on the ladder after an 18-12 win over the Storm in Melbourne on Monday night.
The match is the Vodafone Warriors’ ninth in Wellington and their fourth in the last four years.
Tonight's team 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.
Luke was with the Bulldogs before switching to South Sydney to launch his NRL career while wing Jonathan Wright had two seasons with the Bulldogs in 2011 and 2012.
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
Referees: Henry Perenara and David Munro
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
18 LIGI SAO
HEAD COACH | ANDREW McFADDEN