Locke, Nielsen return for under-fire Warriors

DANE NIELSEN: The centre will make a welcome return from injury for the Warriors clash with the Knights.
DANE NIELSEN: The centre will make a welcome return from injury for the Warriors clash with the Knights.

Fullback Kevin Locke and centre Dane Nielsen have both been named to line up for the Warriors in their 11th-round NRL match against Newcastle at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.

Locke has been slated to make his 76th appearance after missing the last two games against Canterbury Bulldogs and Penrith Panthers with a back injury picked up in the 25-24 home win against Gold Coast on May 5.

And ex-Melbourne centre Nielsen is in line for his sixth outing for his new club after being sidelined with a rib injury suffered in the opening minutes of the 16-20 sixth-round loss to Canberra on April 13.

The duo's inclusion sees Glen Fisiiahi and Carlos Tuimavave named on an extended bench. 

Tuimavave had his first NRL games of the season against the Bulldogs and the Panthers while Fisiiahi was Locke's replacement for the same matches.

Fisiiahi and Tuimavave are joined on a seven-man interchange by Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Elijah Taylor and Pita Godinet and Ngani Laumape, who has been with the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup the last two weeks after making five NRL appearances earlier in the season.

The Warriors will mark the NRL's Women in League round on Sunday in a match against a Newcastle side boosted by a 44-8 destruction of the Bulldogs last Sunday. 

That result marked a remarkable transformation for the Knights just a week after they'd conceded 44 unanswered points in a 14-44 loss to Canberra.

The Warriors face an even bigger recovery on the back of Saturday night's record 6-62 defeat by the Panthers. 

The score-line read 62-0 until winger Manu Vatuvei scored his fifth try of the season in the 78th minute.

"We didn't compete in physical terms last week and that's simply not good enough in this competition," Warriors head coach Matt Elliott said.

"If you don't measure up in the physical exchanges you'll be humiliated - and we were.

"It was a defining game for us. It's clear to everyone what we need to do to win back some pride after all the work done in the previous six matches.

"We all know we've got plenty of work to do this week to take on a Newcastle side capable of putting lots of points on you, as they did against the Bulldogs."

The Warriors attempt to redeem themselves arguably got even harder with the Newcastle Knights welcoming back prolific try-scoring wing Akuila Uate from an ankle injury.

Uate, who has scored 78 tries for the Knights since his debut in 2008, was a late withdrawal from the line-up that thrashed the Bulldogs 44-8 at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, putting on hold his 100th game for the club.

That achievement now takes places at Mt Smart on Sunday as the fifth-placed Knights plan to heap even more misery on the Warriors.

Uate has scored eight tries in nine appearances in 2013 opened the campaign with a treble against the Wests Tigers -- the only club positioned lower on the table than the Warriors, on points differential.

Kevin Naiqama makes way for Uate -- a long time rival of Warriors record try-scorer Manu Vatuvei -- and is again named as 18th man.

At least the Warriors do not have to contend with the abrasiveness of Kiwis enforcer Jeremy Smith as the back rower is still serving a suspension for a dangerous tackle on Panther's second rower Matt Robinson last month -- an indiscretion that ruled him out of the April 19 Anzac Test.

Hosting the Wayne Bennett-coached Knights did not appear a worrying task for counterpart Matt Elliott after they lost a golden point cliffhanger to Cronulla and then crashed 44-14 to Canberra but beating the Bulldogs -- a side that demoralised the Warriors in Wellington on May 11 -- means they arrive in Auckland on Friday confident of improving their 6-win 4-loss record.

The match will again be the third leg of a triple header Sunday, starting with the Auckland Vulcans taking on the Knights in the New South Wales Cup before the NYC contest between the Junior Warriors and their Newcastle counterparts. The NRL match is due to start at 4.05pm.

Sunday's match will be prop Jacob Lillyman's 149th career appearance leaving him set to mark his 150th against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on June 3. 

Halfback Shaun Johnson is set for his 49th appearance this weekend.

Warriors: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Dane Nielsen, Ben Henry, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering, Todd Lowrie. Interchange: (from) Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Elijah Taylor, Carlos Tuimavave, Glen Fisiiahi, Ngani Laumape, Pita Godinet.

Newcastle Knights: Darius Boyd, James McManus, Dane Gagai, Joey Leilua, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Tyrone Roberts, Kade Snowden, Kurt Gidley (captain), Willie Mason, Robbie Rochow, Alex McKinnon, David Fa'alogo. Interchange: Travis Waddell, Neville Costigan, Adam Cuthbertson, Korbin Sims, Kevin Naiqama (18th man).

Fairfax Media