Luke back in Warriors’ NRL starting side

Hooker Issac Luke has been restored to the Warriors’ starting line-up for his return to Taranaki and a NRL meeting with Canberra in New Plymouth.

Luke, who was born and raised in Hawera, has come off the bench in the Warriors’ past two matches – the win over St George Illawarra and last weekend’s loss to Penrith.

He will wear the No.9 jersey, with youngster Jazz Tevaga set to come off the bench, when the NRL makes its debut on Saturday night in Taranaki.

“It’s a huge game for Issac playing in his home province,” assistant coach Justin Morgan said.

“He got back some form at the weekend, his defence was more consistent and he had a few runs from dummy-half, which is what we need him to do.”

Also returning to the run-on side are lock Simon Mannering and prop Ben Matulino.

Mannering sat out against the Dragons and Panthers as he recovered from a facial injury.

Matulino was one of six players dropped over a late night out and made his comeback to first grade off the bench against the Panthers.

There is one further change forced by centre Solomone Kata’s one-match suspension after an early guilty plea to a dangerous contact charge for a tackle on Panthers playmaker Jamie Soward.

Kata is the Warriors’ top try-scorer this season with eight in 10 matches and he has played in all 34 of the club’s fixtures since his NRL debut last year in round one.

His place goes to former Raider Matt Allwood.

Prop Sam Lisone, who was among the six players disciplined, is set to make his first NRL appearance since the incident after being included on the bench.

Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea, Jonathan Wright, Blake Ayshford, Matt Allwood, David Fusitu’a, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (capt), Simon Mannering. Res (from): Jazz Tevaga, Sam Lisone, John Palavi, James Gavet, Toafofoa Sipley.

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