Warriors rising star Tuimoala Lolohea has been dumped from the squad for the crucial NRL clash with North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday night.
Lolohea, 21, endured a dire evening at fullback and was substituted in the 54th minute last weekend as lowly-ranked South Sydney put a spike in the Warriors’ finals hopes with a 41-22 win in Auckland that dropped them to ninth.
David Fusitu’a will replace Lolohea in the No.1 jersey while centre Blake Ayshford returns to the starting XIII after a fortnight on the pine.
Lolohea, who can play fullback or in the halves, will play in reserve grade.
“(Lolohea) needs to get some confidence back in his game, as well as having the chance to play in his preferred spot in the halves,” Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said on Tuesday.
“David has shown his ability in all the positions in the outside backs.”
Lolohea’s axing comes as media reports linking troubled Kiwi star Kieran Foran to the Warriors grow louder.
Chief executive Jim Doyle said on Tuesday that Foran, released from the Eels on compassionate grounds, would be welcome at the club when ready to return to the NRL.
“When Kieran decides he’s ready to resume his playing career, we’ll certainly be interested in talking to him further,” Doyle said in a statement.
Elsewhere, the side retains a similar shape to that which fell to Souths.
Thomas Leuluai and Shaun Johnson take up their regular roles in the halves, with Jazz Tevaga again deputising for the crocked Issac Luke at hooker.
Jacob Lillyman and Albert Vete will line up as props, with Bodene Thompson and skipper Ryan Hoffman behind them in the second row.
McFadden has decided to do away with his usual outside back on the bench, injecting front rower James Gavet into the XVII.
It is hoped Gavet, who has played eight NRL games in 2016, will add some much needed thrust to the Warriors’ play through the middle.
“We’re looking for a lot more from our forwards this week,” McFadden said.
“We need to do much better in the battle in the middle, in what will be a really tough game for us.”
Fifth-placed North Queensland, the reigning NRL premiers, sit four points outside the top four after losing four of their last five matches.
The Warriors have a poor record in Townsville, losing 10 of the 15 matches played in the Queensland city, but edge the Cowboys 18 to 17 overall.