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Wiki back for the Warriors

03/06/2008 11:03:50 PM Comments (0)

Prop Ruben Wiki makes his NRL return in one of several changes to the New Zealand Warriors' side named to face bottom-of-the-table South Sydney on Friday.

The former Kiwis skipper has been recalled after playing for feeder club the Auckland Vulcans last Saturday.

With skipper Steve Price picked for the Queensland State of Origin team after two matches back from injury, Wiki has been included in the starting 13 against the Rabbitohs in Auckland.

When he runs on to Mt Smart Stadium, he will get within three matches of being the first New Zealander to make 300 NRL appearances.

Apart from Price, centre Brent Tate will also be missing because of Queensland duty.

Tate's absence means Aidan Kirk moves from the left wing into the centres, a position he has filled regularly for the Auckland Lions and the Vulcans over the past two seasons.

Another feature is the return of giant winger Manu Vatuvei after a six-week stint on the sideline due to a leg injury.

Vatuvei scored seven tries in the first seven matches of the year but hasn't played facing the Gold Coast in late April, when he was forced off with what turned out to be a spiral fracture of his left fibula.

Also back is utility Lance Hohaia, who missed the 18-16 win away to Newcastle last Saturday because of a thigh problem.

While Hohaia had been the regular fullback before being injured, he will be used off the bench, with Patrick Ah Van retained after his outstanding error-free performance against the Knights.

In his first outing at fullback this season, Ah Van scored a try and kicked three goals from four attempts, including the match-winner two minutes from fulltime.

In a further boost for the Kiwi club, two of their most promising players have committed their immediate futures to the Warriors.

Prop Russell Packer, 18, and back rower Ben Matulino, 19, have resigned.

Packer, who has already played four NRL games and will again be in the 17 to play South, agreed to a new four-year deal to the end of 2012.

Matulino, who is yet to make his first-grade debut but has starred for the under-20 Junior Warriors, will be at Mt Smart Stadium until the end of 2010.

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