Warriors call in some big guns to face Wigan

AARON GOILE
Last updated 10:35 12/02/2014
Nathan Friend
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
VETERAN: Nathan Friend will add some experience to the Warriors side to face Wigan.

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The Warriors have bolstered their lineup for tonight's pre-season match with Wigan in Hamilton by calling Feleti Mateo and Nathan Friend into the side.

The experienced duo weren't included in the original squad for the historic 'Clash of the Warriors' at Waikato Stadium, however, coach Matthew Elliott has called them in late and both will start the game.

Second rower Mateo, who is coming back from an off-season knee injury, was being targeted for the last trial match - on February 23 against Brisbane in Dunedin - but has recovered well. It comes as the 164-game veteran eyes his fourth season with the club, having played 76 consecutive matches since joining the Warriors in 2011.

Friend (173 games) will take his place at hooker, with Sam Rapira - captain for the day in his home town - and Jacob Lillyman providing plenty of experience in the front row. Ben Matulino will revert to his former days as a second rower for the opening exchanges.

While Mateo and Friend have been brought into the line-up, centre Dane Nielsen will be missing with a hip injury but is expected to be fit for the Dunedin trial.

Getting his first start for the Warriors will be ex-Cronulla half Chad Townsend, while seasoned campaigner Jerome Ropati will be at fullback rather than his usual spot at centre.

None of the club's 16 NRL Auckland Nines players will be used.

Wigan coach Shaun Wane has confirmed former North Queensland star Matt Bowen will start at fullback for the visitors, with England winger Josh Charnley on one wing.

Two of Wigan's three other England internationals will play with Michael McIlorum (hooker) and Liam Farrell (second row) starting but back rower and regular captain Sean O'Loughlin has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Former NRL player Eddy Pettybourne is on the interchange bench along with Logan Tomkins, younger brother of ex-Wigan and now Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins.

The match is the only hit-out Wigan have on tour ahead of next Saturday night's World Club Challenge against the Roosters in Sydney.

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