Kiwis five-eighth Thomas Leuluai makes his NRL return after a three-month injury-enforced absence to play his 50th game for the Warriors.
Sidelined for three months with a groin injury, Kiwis five-eighth Thomas Leuluai should finally get some game time for the Warriors in their NRL match against the Broncos in Brisbane on Saturday.
Leuluai, 29, has been named on the bench in what will be his 50th NRL appearance for the Warriors since making his debut in 2003.
Head coach Andrew McFadden says the club has been cautious in returning Leuluai to the fray.
“He’s been letting us know he’s been ready for the last two or three weeks, but we are just making sure he’s ready to come back,” he said.
“He’ll be having some time in the dummy half role against Brisbane and he’ll also give us cover in the halves.”
Leuluai played 21 times in 2003 and 2004 for the Warriors before spending the next eight seasons in the English Super League with the London Broncos and Wigan.
He played every minute of the Warriors’ 24 matches last year before a groin complaint ruined his Rugby League World Cup campaign.
Leuluai’s NRL return has been a stop-start affair, and he has managed just four games since April.
Rookie Warriors prop-second rower Agnatius Paasi will also make his NRL debut on Saturday, McFadden rewarding the 22-year-old for his hard work this year.
“Bringing Agnatius in for his debut is really exciting for us,” McFadden said.
“It’s tough on Charlie Gubb and Sam Lousi, but Agnatius deserves to have his chance in first grade.”
Paasi and Leuluai join Ben Matulino and Feleti Mateo on the bench while second rower Jayson Bukuya, who missed the Warriors’ 48-0 win over Parramatta last week, is the fifth player named on the interchange.
The Warriors, who beat Brisbane 19-10 at Mt Smart Stadium last month, sit sixth on the NRL ladder with 22 points, with the Broncos two points astray in seventh place.
Warriors: Sam Tomkins, David Fusitua, Konrad Hurrell, Dane Nielsen, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Suaia Matagi, Ben Henry, Simon Mannering (captain), Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, Agnatius Paaso, Thomas Leuluai, Jayson Bukuya.