Warriors coach has faith in hooker Mara's role

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 10/05/2012
Brian McClennan
Getty Images
CONFIDENT: Warriors coach Brian McClennan is backing his young guns to fire, and play mature football at the same time.

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Warriors coach Brian McClennan admits new hooker Alehana Mara won't likely play a full 80 minutes against the Roosters this Saturday, but is confident the Wellington-born 22-year-old can fill the boots of the injured Nathan Friend.

Friend will miss up to eight weeks with a broken jaw suffered in the Warriors character-defining 30-20 victory over the Broncos last weekend, leading the naming of Mara to the No 9 jersey.

Mara will be used in tandem with interchange utility Lewis Brown out of dummy half, with Brown, predominantly a back rower or centre with the Warriors, having experience as a hooker when in the Tigers system.

Although Friend has been a defensive rock for the Warriors, don't expect any changes to the Warriors game structure, or style in his absence. Bluey's Boys have won two of their last three encounters, showing a marked improvement from their patchy start to the season.

"It won't change our style," McClennan said of Mara's inclusion. "Ale[hana] won't be able to do 80 minutes of what Nathan Friend can do, but Ale and Lewis Brown can.

"They can hold it together for us – and that's their main focus this week. If they can just get out there and hold that area nice and tight, give good service from dummy half and get the odd carry out of there when they can, that's all we want from them.

"We've got enough strike throughout the team to handle other aspects of the game."

Mara, who suffered a knee injury earlier this year, has only nine first-grade appearance to his name heading into Saturday's clash, but McClennan is sure the Auckland Vulcans regular can step up.

"We're confident he will," he said. "It's about holding our middle strong."

The Warriors have already matched up against the Roosters this season, at Allianz Stadium in round five, and it wasn't pretty. The Roosters outmuscled the Warriors forward pack, while veteran fullback Anthony Minichiello ran riot in a 26-8 rout.

McClennan admits the Warriors let themselves down at Allianz Stadium, and has called his side to build on their strong outing against the Broncos, a character-defining 30-20 victory, last weekend.

"Our focus this week is on our own backyard," he said.

"We need to perform better. We need to perform better for ourselves – not just because the Roosters spanked us last time they played us, but because we'd like to improve on what we did against Brisbane."

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