Warriors forced to rotate with Johnson in doubt

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:03 22/05/2014
Shaun Johnson
Photosport
STILL TRAVELLING: Shaun Johnson has a minor groin strain, putting him in doubt for the Warriors' clash with the Titans.

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Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is in doubt for Saturday's game against the Titans on the Gold Coast and Tuimoala Lolohea is on standby.

Johnson sat out training yesterday, but will travel with the team to Australia. Warriors coach Andrew McFadden is still hopeful his star player will be available but says they're preparing Lolohea just in case.

"He has got a minor groin strain," McFadden said.

"We expect him to be fit this weekend but decided to take the conservative route."

Lolohea is seen as one of the best young prospects at the Warriors. He represented the club at the Auckland Nines and showed what a creative player he'll be.

He has been named on extended benches a couple of times, but would make his debut if he's called upon.

"He has been training really well - we've integrated him into our NRL training plans," McFadden said of Lolohea.

If Johnson could not play, Lolohea would get his start.

The loss of Sione Lousi through injury forced McFadden to move a number of players into different positions for this weekend's game.

Ben Matulino's time in the second row has come to an end for now, as he'll once more be part of the prop rotation.

"I feel we need that impact even more in the front row, especially against a Titans team that has a very good pack," McFadden said.

"He [Matulino] is versatile.

"Obviously, I'm not going to put him on the wing or anything like that. But he had a real impact for us out on the edge and I still plan to use that in stages, but for the team dynamic at the moment I believe we need to get him back in the middle."

The Warriors' front-row stocks would have been further depleted had Jacob Lillyman made it into the Queensland State of Origin side, but he can again count himself as being unfortunate to miss out after another good start to the season.

"I'm very disappointed for Jacob," McFadden said.

"He's been outstanding for us all year - he's probably been the standout, to be honest.

"His numbers at the weekend were huge and I'm really disappointed he didn't get selected, but it is a good thing for us and there are two other games he can push for [Origin selection]."

Meanwhile, McFadden said there was light at the end of the tunnel for Thomas Leuluai. The five-eighth has been troubled by a groin injury since last year's World Cup and played just four times for the Warriors this season before going down with the same injury again.

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But doctors have recently discovered that Leuluai also had a hernia, which has been operated on, and he could be in contention for selection in three to four weeks.

"I'm very optimistic he'll play some good footy for us this year," McFadden said. 

- Stuff

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