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Fisiiahi and Rapira return for Wests Tigers clash

Glen Fisiiahi has been recalled at fullback and Sam Rapira is back on the bench for the Warriors 11th-round match against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.
Fisiiahi and Rapira return for Wests Tigers clash
by NRL

Glen Fisiiahi has been recalled at fullback and Sam Rapira is back on the bench for the Warriors 11th-round match against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.

Fisiiahi comes in for unlucky veteran Jerome Ropati, now out of action for up to eight weeks after dislocating the patella in his left knee in last Saturday night's clash with the Sydney Roosters.

It was the same knee Ropati had season-ending surgery on after suffering ACL damage in last year's third-round encounter with St George Illawarra.

Rapira makes his comeback from an ankle injury, selected on the bench replacing Ukuma Ta'ai, who made his 50th NRL appearance last weekend.

Ropati's latest injury setback continues a frustrating run for players used at fullback by the Vodafone Warriors in recent weeks. The 27-year-old was impressive when he started there against South Sydney on April 15 before being forced off with a hamstring injury after 47 minutes.

In the Anzac Day encounter with Melbourne, Ropati's replacement Kevin Locke - who had earlier been side-lined with a leg injury - lasted only six minutes before leaving the field with a sternum complaint.

Ropati recovered from his hamstring injury to play the full 80 minutes in the 30-20 victory over Brisbane on May 5 before being struck down in a heavy tackle against the Roosters.

Fisiiahi will make his seventh NRL appearance, his third this season after being used at fullback for the injured Locke in the away games against the Roosters and Canberra in April.

The 21-year-old has been in prolific try-scoring form for the Vodafone Warriors' feeder side the Auckland Vulcans playing in the New South Wales Cup. He snared another hat-trick against Windsor last weekend giving him 18 tries already this year.

"Kevin was a chance to come back but he's still not quite right," said Vodafone Warriors head coach Brian McClennan.

"We won't take any risks there so he'll have another week off. That gives Glen another opportunity in the NRL."

Rapira, the club's most experienced front rower, makes his return to reunite last year's regular propping quartet for the first time this season; it follows Jacob Lillyman's long-awaited comeback in the ninth-round won over Brisbane. Rapira (127 appearances) and Lillyman (126) are both named on the bench with Ben Matulino (96) and Russell Packer (87) the starting front rowers. Also on the interchange is Sione Lousi, who has featured impressively in all 10 matches so far in this campaign. The others on the bench are Lewis Brown and Pita Godinet.

Little separates the Vodafone Warriors and Wests Tigers. The Vodafone Warriors are coming off back-to-back home wins, giving them a five win-five loss record and holding eighth spot on the ladder. The Tigers picked up two points from their bye last week and also sit on 10 points having won their last three games, the last two 15-14 against Gold Coast and 31-30 against Parramatta.

They'll be without captain Robbie Farah who has been selected in the New South Wales side for next week's first State of Origin match. The Vodafone Warriors three Origin contenders James Maloney and Feleti Mateo, both New South Wales, and Queenslander Lillyman were all overlooked.

Maloney takes great goal-kicking form into the match, having kicked 10 from 10 conversion attempts in the home wins over the Broncos and the Roosters.

The Vodafone Warriors fly to Sydney tomorrow afternoon.

NZ WARRIORS v WESTS TIGERS
Leichhardt Oval, Balmain
7.30pm, Friday, May 12

1 Glen Fisiiahi
2 Bill Tupou
3 Ben Henry
4 Konrad Hurrell
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 James Maloney
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Russell Packer
9 Alehana Mara
10 Ben Matulino
11 Elijah Taylor
12 Simon Mannering [c]
13 Feleti Mateo

14 Lewis Brown
15 Sam Rapira
16 Sione Lousi
17 Jacob Lillyman
18 Pita Godinet

Coach: Brian McClennan

- NRL Stats: Wests Tigers v Warriors
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