Warriors make plenty of changes to face Knights

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 17:01 12/08/2014
Shaun Johnson
Photosport
FIT AGAIN: After a three-match layoff with a groin injury, playmaker Shaun Johnson is back in the Warriors side for their match against the Newcastle Knights this afternoon.

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Warriors coach Andrew McFadden has slashed and burned his team list for his side's clash with the Knights this weekend following a lacklustre win over the bottom-dwelling Sharks.

McFadden said he hoped the seven changes to the starting line up would lift the performance of the team following the 16-12 win to Cronulla on Sunday.

''It wasn't at the level we expect of ourselves against Cronulla. That effort was really disappointing but at least we came away from it with the two points.''

The most notable change to the team for the Sunday afternoon match is the return of playmaker Shaun Johnson after a groin injury saw him ruled out of the last three matches.

McFadden said he was pleased to have Johnson back.

''Shaun was close to being right last week. We could have played him but didn't want to risk it,'' he said.

''It's great to have him back. He's obviously important to our team.''

Two other backline changes were forced through injuries suffered during the Sharks game with centre Dane Nielsen ruled out with concussion after a dangerous tackle by Sam Tagataese, and rookie wing Tui Lolohea sidelined with a hamstring strain.

First-choice centre Konrad Hurrell is still warming the seats in the stands due to a hamstring strain with utility Ben Henry being brought into the starting line-up, while rookie David Fusitu'a returns from a groin injury to make his 12th NRL appearance on the right wing.

There are also four changes to the starting forward pack.

The most notable sees Thomas Leuluai named to start at hooker in place of Nathan Friend who moves to the bench. The move allows both Leuluai and Johnson on the field at the same time and opens up attacking options for the team.

Returning in the second row is Jayson Bukuya, who was 18th man against the Sharks last week, and Ben Matulino also gets a starting role. Captain Simon Mannering switches to loose forward.

The Knights will be a tough prospect for the Warriors - despite sitting at 14th on the table they have beaten the Roosters and the Storm, two top eight teams, at home in the past fortnight.

The Warriors, though, have an impressive record against the Knights having won seven of the last eight clashes between the two sides and 13 of 17 stretching back to 2005.

They've also won five of the last seven encounters at Hunter Stadium.

The teams met in the first match back at Mt Smart Stadium on June 1 when the Warriors marked Mannering's 200th appearance and his 100th as captain with a 38-18 win.

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Warriors: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitu'a, Ngani Laumape, Ben Henry, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Thomas Leuluai, Suaia Matagi, Ben Matulino,  Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (C).  Interchange: Feleti Mateo, Sam Rapira, Sione Lousi, Nathan Friend, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Dominique Peyroux

- Stuff

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