Leivaha Pulu is confirmed to start in the second row replacing the injured Isaiah Papali’i for Saturday’s third-round NRL encounter with the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm kick-off NZT).
The 27-year-old, who’ll be making his 48th career appearance this week, played the last 73 minutes of the 20-8 victory over his former club Gold Coast after coming on for the injured Papali’i (knee) last Saturday.
His elevation to join Tohu Harris as a starting second rower sees his fellow former Titans team-mate Agnatius Paasi coming onto the interchange.
There’s another change in the top 17 with utility Jazz Tevaga named in jersey No 14, coming onto the bench for 2018 rookie Sam Cook, who played 12 minutes in his debut against South Sydney on March 10 and seven minutes against Gold Coast.
“Leivaha did a wonderful job on the left edge coming into the game so early after Isaiah was injured,” said Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney.
“It’s tough for Isaiah being ruled out for a few weeks after the great start he had to the season but fortunately we’re able to call on Vaha as well as bringing Agnatius onto the bench.
“Iggy has had two impressive outings in the Intrust Super Premiership while Jazz had 80 minutes for our ISP side last weekend, so he comes into the side while Sam goes back to the ISP to get some time on the field.”
Paasi picked up a medial ligament injury after just a few minutes of the February 17 trial against Melbourne in Rotorua but returned for the season-opening ISP match against North Sydney when he made a game-high 190 metres from 21 carries and 20 tackles in 55 minutes in a 30-22 win. He had another 57 minutes in last Saturday’s disappointing 14-30 loss to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Tevaga was with the NRL squad for the South Sydney match in Perth but didn’t play. In his first outing of the season last week he made 53 tackles and 87 metres from 14 runs for the ISP team.
Coming onto the extended eight-man bench are wing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and prop Chris Satae.
The Vodafone Warriors face a Canberra side desperately unlucky to lose each of its first two games by the same score – 28-30 – after conceding late tries against the Titans and Newcastle.
In 15 previous meetings at GIO Stadium, the Raiders have won 12 times. The Vodafone Warriors tasted success there in 2014 and 2015 but had a 22-26 golden point loss in 2016 and went down 8-20 in tough grind last season.
The Vodafone Warriors are second on the NRL ladder after consecutive 12-point wins over South Sydney (32-20) and the Titans (20-8). If they win this week it would be the first time in history that they have started a season with three straight victories.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
GIO Stadium, Canberra
3.00pm, Saturday, March 24, 2018
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 PETA HIKU
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 BLAKE GREEN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 ADAM BLAIR
11 LEIVAHA PULU
12 TOHU HARRIS
13 LIGI SAO
14 JAZZ TEVAGA
15 AGNATIUS PAASI
16 SAM LISONE
17 BUNTY AFOA
18 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
20 ANTHONY GELLING
21 CHRIS SATAE
22 MASON LINO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY