Warriors' coach Ivan Cleary.
Warriors' coach Ivan Cleary. Greg Bowker - NZ Herald

Big guns return for the Warriors

THE cavalry appears to be riding over the hill just in the nick of time for the Warriors, with key forwards Micheal Luck and Sam Rapira returning for Friday night's home match against the lowly Titans.

Senior prop Rapira returns to the side for the first time since dislocating his thumb in the opening minute of May's Anzac test.

The seemingly unbreakable Luck is back after two matches with what was initially feared to be a season-ending knee injury.

After four consecutive losses and the news that coach Ivan Cleary will depart at the end of the season, the next two matches - both home Friday night encounters against struggling sides - appear crucial.

"The common theme across the four games is that we couldn't put 80 minutes together," Cleary said. "And when we did take a dip in those games, we got punished. [Luck and Rapira] will certainly help along the way to getting a full 80-minute performance."

Luck dismissed suggestions his return may be premature, saying he felt no ill effects in training from his dislocated kneecap.

"It has passed every test it has had to," he said. "I got the big boys to have a fair crack at it yesterday and it feels good."

In other changes, Shaun Johnson returns at halfback in place of the injured Brett Seymour - whose comeback from a fractured cheekbone ended with a broken thumb after one match. Kevin Locke is back at fullback.

Lance Hohaia returns to the bench as backup hooker after an unhappy outing at fullback against the Storm. Back rower Steve Rapira has been relegated to a five-man bench that includes rising star Elijah Taylor, while Sione Lousi and Alehana Mara have dropped out of the side altogether.

Returning Titans star Mat Rogers isn't expected to play after announcing last week he would come out of retirement after receiving an SOS from the bottom-of-the-table Titans.

Captain Simon Mannering wasn't exactly quaking in his boots over the prospect of the 35-year-old making a shock appearance on Friday night.

"Respect to him for coming back and trying to help his team, but I don't know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing he's not playing on Friday," Mannering said.

"It's tough coming back after so long out. It is hard enough missing four weeks, let alone half the year."

Warriors prop Jeremy Latimore will play for reigning NRL premiers St George Illawarra next season. Latimore, who has played in 24 matches for the Warriors since joining from Parramatta in 2010, is believed to have signed a one-year deal with the Dragons.

WARRIORS v TITANS

Warriors

Kevin Locke
Bill Tupou
Lewis Brown
Shaun Berrigan
Manu Vatuvei
James Maloney
Shaun Johnson
Russell Packer
Aaron Heremaia
Jacob Lillyman
Feleti Mateo
Simon Mannering (c)
Micheal Luck

Interchange: Lance Hohaia, Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Steve Rapira.

Titans

Jordan Rankin
Steve Michaels
Clinton Toopi
Esi Tonga
David Mead
William Zillman
Scott Prince
Luke Bailey
Matt Srama
Michael Henderson
Anthony Laffranchi
Mark Minichiello
Ashley Harrison

Interchange: Interchange: Matthew White, Brenton Lawrence, Greg Bird, Bodene Thompson, Luke O'Dwyer (one to be omitted).



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