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Chanel Harris-Tavita practises kicking at training.

Chanel Harris-Tavita's superior kicking game was the deciding factor in Warriors coach Stephen Kearney picking him to start at five-eighth ahead of Kodi Nikorima for Saturday's trip to Newcastle.

The 20-year-old has been named to start alongside Blake Green in the halves, with experienced Kiwi international Nikorima left to come off the bench as the back-up hooker to new recruit Wayde Egan.

Long kicking wasn't a strong point for the Warriors last year and after the club's two trials, Green admitted it was an area he needed to improve.

Kearney said while there was little to separate Nikorima and Harris-Tavita through the pre-season, the latter's ability with the boot gave him a point of difference.   

"Chanel has got a reliable kick and I just thought that would be a benefit for us to start round one," Kearney said.

"Chanel's left-foot kick helps. I am picking early in the competition it is going to be a territory and position type of game.

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"I think his game management has improved [too]. That's why he has got the nod this week.

"There wasn't a great deal between them both … it was just a matter of what we thought was best for us this week."

Green said a good long kicking game would be more important than ever due to new rules which allow attacking teams to pick if they want to feed a scrum in the middle of the field or 10 or 20 metres from the nearest sideline.

The middle option was used with success by several teams through the trials and Green said it would particularly be of huge benefit to players such as star Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Ponga averaged a touch under 40 kick return metres per game last year and is one of the most elusive runners in the Telstra Premiership.

"Previously if we were to have scored a try and we completed our set then you'd kick the ball out 10 metres from the line and everyone would be clapping," Green told

"But now that means we are going to have to tackle Kalyn Ponga, probably one on one, in 35-40 metres of space because the scrum is in the middle of the field.

"You will probably see a few more kicks that are just high into the corners now instead."

With prop Bunty Afoa likely gone for the year with a ruptured ACL and experienced big man Agnatius Paasi out with a high ankle sprain, the Warriors will blood rookie forwards Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Eliesa Katoa against Newcastle.

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Kearney also confirmed the No.6 jersey was likely to remain Harris-Tavita's through the opening couple of games as he looks to avoid a repeat of last year's game of musical chairs in the position.

Adam Keighran and Harris-Tavita had turns at five-eighth through the opening four rounds, before Nikorima arrived from the Broncos in May and became the first-choice option for most of second half of the year.

"That's the plan [to keep Chanel there]. I don't think in those positions you can sort of chop and change all the time unless you really need to," Kearney said.

"I feel that Kodi can really be an asset for us coming off the bench and provide some real spark, and he understands that."

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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