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Dominique Peyroux returns to NRL football for just the third time this season for the Vodafone Warriors’ 25th-round clash against his former club Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Vodafone).

In his first outing in more than four months, the 25-year-old Peyroux has been named to start in the centres, coming into the side following the shoulder injury which forced rookie winger David Fusitu’a off the field in the opening minutes of last Sunday’s loss to the Sydney Roosters.

Ngani Laumape starts on the right wing, where he played most of the match against the Roosters after originally being selected in the centres.

In one other change to the starting line-up, Sione Lousi has been named at loose forward with Sebastine Ikahihifo included on the bench.

Returning on the interchange is veteran prop Sam Rapira, who turned out for the club’s New South Wales Cup side in its dramatic 28-30 loss to Newtown last Sunday. He replaces Feleti Mateo who will play in the NSW Cup against North Sydney on Sunday.

After making 14 appearances last season, Peyroux’s previous games this year were against Canterbury-Bankstown (bench) at Eden Park and the following week against St George Illawarra when he was in the second row.

Used 16 times for the NSW Cup side, the Cook Islands international has been with the NRL squad the last two weeks following injuries to Konrad Hurrell , Dane Nielsen and Tuimoala Lolohea; he was 18th man against the Roosters.

“Dom’s been great working with the squad giving us cover in the outside backs for the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“He has kept pushing for an opportunity through his efforts for our New South Wales Cup side and he’ll do a good job for us.

“The decision to start Sione is the way we want to go with this game.”

Peyroux played 16 times for the Titans in 2011-2012 before linking with the Vodafone Warriors last season.

He was in two losing Gold Coast sides in matches against the Vodafone Warriors but experienced victory for his new club against his old one in Robina last August.

He becomes the 11th different player the Vodafone Warriors have used as a starting centre or wing. The team’s top try scorer Manu Vatuvei has been the most durable, missing just one of the side’s 22 games this season while Hurrell, Nielsen, Fusitu’a, Lolohea, Glen Fisiiahi and the now-retired Jerome Ropati have all been hit by injuries.

The Vodafone Warriors go into the second to last round of the regular season out of the top eight, now 10thand needing to beat both Gold Coast and Penrith to have any chance of being in top eight contention.

“We simply have to win both games and then hope for a few things to go our way,” said McFadden.

Five players will maintain a perfect record of playing all 23 matches so far this season this week – Sam Tomkins, Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman, Simon Mannering and Suaia Matagi.

McFadden said the team was buoyed by this Sunday also marking old boys’ day with a strong crew of former players set to be on hand.


VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, August 31


VODAFONE WARRIORS
1 Sam Tomkins
2 Ngani Laumape
3 Konrad Hurrell
4 Dominique Peyroux
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Thomas Leuluai
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Jacob Lillyman
9 Nathan Friend
10 Ben Matulino
11 Ben Henry
12 Simon Mannering (c)
13 Sione Lousi

Interchange:
14 Sam Rapira
15 Suaia Matagi
16 Sebastine Ikahihifo
17 Jayson Bukuya

18 John Palavi

HEAD COACH: Andrew McFadden
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Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has made several line-up changes for Sunday’s 23rd-round NRL encounter with the Knights at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).

As foreshadowed experienced halfback Shaun Johnson returns for his 80th NRL appearance after missing the last three matches with a groin injury.

Two other backline changes were forced with Dane Nielsen (concussion) and Tuimoala Lolohea (hamstring) both ruled out this week. They left the field in last Sunday’s 16-12 win over Cronulla, a result which has pushed the Vodafone Warriors up to sixth on the ladder with four rounds left in the regular season.

With first-choice centre Konrad Hurrell still unavailable with a hamstring strain, McFadden has brought valuable utility Ben Henry into the starting line-up while rookie David Fusitu’a returns on the right wing for his 12th appearance; he has been out with a groin injury since the 22-28 loss to Brisbane on July 19.

There are also four changes to the starting forward pack.

The most notable sees Thomas Leuluai named to start at hooker for the first time in what will be his ninth game this season and his fifth since returning from a three-month lay-off with his groin problem. Nathan Friend goes to the bench.

Returning in the second row is Jayson Bukuya, who was 18th man against the Sharks last week, with Ben Matulino his starting second row partner. Captain Simon Mannering switches to loose forward. Friend is joined on an extended interchange by Feleti Mateo, Sam Rapira, Sione Lousi, Sebastine Ikahihifo and Dominique Peyroux.

“Shaun was close to being right last week. We could have played him but didn’t want to risk it,” said McFadden.

“It’s great to have him back. He’s obviously important to our team.

“With Konrad and Dane both out, Ben (Henry) is a natural choice in the centres and David (Fusitu’a) has another chance after missing a few games.

“We’ve made some other changes as well in a bid to lift our performance. It wasn’t at the level we expect of ourselves against Cronulla. That effort was really disappointing but at least we came away from it with the two points.”

In Newcastle, the Vodafone Warriors face another side sitting well down the table in 14th place on 18 points after what has been a challenging season for the club.

Despite that the Knights have had two outstanding victories in their last two homes games beating the defending premiers the Sydney Roosters 16-12 and last week coming back from the clouds with two tries in the last two minutes to beat the formidable Melbourne Storm 32-30; that win came on the back of a 10-50 loss to South Sydney the previous week.

The Vodafone Warriors have an impressive record against the Knights having won seven of the last eight clashes between the two sides and 13 of 17 stretching back to 2005. They’ve also won five of the last seven encounters at Hunter Stadium but this is their first trip to Newcastle since 2011.

The teams met in the first match back at Mount Smart Stadium on June 1 when the Vodafone Warriors marked Mannering’s 200th appearance and his 100th as captain with a 38-18 win.

Matulino plays his 149th NRL match on Sunday leaving him in line to play his 150th game when the Vodafone Warriors host the Sydney Roosters on August 24.



VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

4.00pm, Sunday, August 17



VODAFONE WARRIORS

1 Sam Tomkins
2 David Fusitua
3 Ngani Laumape
4 Ben Henry
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Chad Townsend
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Jacob Lillyman
9 Thomas Leuluai
10 Suaia Matagi
11 Ben Matulino
12 Jayson Bukuya
13 Simon Mannering (c)

Interchange:
14 Feleti Mateo
15 Sam Rapira
16 Sione Lousi
17 Nathan Friend

18 Sebastine Ikahihifo
21 Dominique Peyroux

HEAD COACH: Andrew McFadden
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