Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney is optimistic Kieran Foran will be able to make his belated club debut this week after naming him at standoff for Sunday’s fifth-round NRL encounter against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: SKYCITY).
A hamstring twinge in the team’s warm-up forced the 26-year-old Kiwi international out of last Sunday’s clash against St George Illawarra in Sydney.
However, Kearney said today that Foran is now in line to appear for his new club for the first time in front of his home crowd. If he is cleared, he will become Vodafone Warrior #217.
“Kieran felt a twinge in his hamstring and in the warm-up and it wasn’t worth the risk to play him,” he said.
“He had good power in the leg at the time and has responded well since. He’s making good progress.
“We’re certainly hopeful he will be able to play and will give him every opportunity to prove his fitness.”
In the reshuffle forced by Foran’s late defection on Sunday, Kearney moved Tuimoala Lolohea to standoff, centre David Fusitu’a to Lolohea’s spot on the right wing and 18th man Blake Ayshford into the centres.
Ayshford backed up from an 80-minute effort in the Vodafone Warriors’ Intrust Super Premiership side’s 21-14 win over Illawarra in Wollongong with another 80 minutes against the Dragons in what was his 147th NRL career appearance. The 28-year-old Ayshford has been named on the right wing today.
The starting pack named is the same as the one used against the Dragons.
The bench again includes Sam Lisone as well as James Gavet and Ligi Sao, who both had their first NRL outings of the season last weekend. In 43 minutes on the field, Gavet made 129 metres from 15 runs, Jacob Lillyman the only Vodafone Warriors forward to carry the ball more with 151 metres from 15 runs.
Named in the #14 jersey and in line for his first NRL game this year is the club’s 2016 rookie of the year Nathaniel Roache. The hooker impressed in his first game after a long lay-off when he played almost 60 minutes for the ISP side, making 111 metres from 12 runs, scoring a try and also coming up with 28 tackles and no misses.
Others on the extended bench are Albert Vete, Bunty Afoa, Mason Lino and Ata Hingano.
A feature of Sunday’s return to Mount Smart Stadium will be the chance members and fans will have to honour the remarkable Simon Mannering following his club record 262nd NRL appearance last week. A special presentation will be made to him after the game.
Centre Solomone Kata reaches his 50-game milestone this Sunday after starting his NRL career in the opening round of the 2015 season.
This will be the 21st encounter between the Vodafone Warriors and the Titans with the home side holding a 13-7 advantage in the 20 match-ups so far. The Vodafone Warriors have won the last three contests and 11 of the last 12 since 2011.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, April 2
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 BLAKE AYSHFORD
3 DAVID FUSITU’A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 CHARLIE GUBB
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 JAMES GAVET
16 SAM LISONE
17 LIGI SAO
18 ALBERT VETE
20 BUNTY AFOA
21 MAFOA’AEATA HINGANO
22 MASON LINO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY