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Warriors braced for Canberra backlash

Warriors playmaker Thomas Leuluai sees Canberra's off-field turmoil as providing an added hurdle for his own team in a high-stakes NRL clash in Auckland.
Warriors braced for Canberra backlash
by AAP

By Robert Lowe

AUCKLAND, Aug 30 AAP - Warriors playmaker Thomas Leuluai sees Canberra's off-field turmoil as providing an added hurdle for his own team in a high-stakes NRL clash in Auckland.

The Warriors meet the Raiders on Saturday, with both teams needing victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Leuluai says the type of build-up Canberra have had usually means one of two things.

"It will either unify them or it goes the other way," he said.

"Generally in those situations, I think it brings a team together, so it just makes it a lot harder for us."

Canberra head to Mt Smart Stadium after sacking coach David Furner, dropping their fourth game in a row and standing down star centre Blake Ferguson for going absent.

They have also had winger Sandor Earl, who wasn't picked to face the Warriors because of a hamstring injury, issued with an NRL infraction notice after admitting taking and trafficking banned peptides.

But the Raiders remain alive in the playoff race.

Like the Warriors, they are among five clubs on 24 points, one fewer than seventh-placed Newcastle.

They welcome back skipper Terry Campese and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs from injury, while the selection of ex-Warrior Bill Tupou on one wing sets up a tantalising duel with former teammate Manu Vatuvei.

The Warriors have made one forced change, with centre Dane Nielsen ruled out with a shin problem.

Veteran Jerome Ropati, who scored two tries on the right wing against Gold Coast last weekend, is set to move back to the centres, with winger Ngani Laumape coming into the side.

The Warriors moved to 11th, one place above Canberra, by pipping the Titans 24-22 and snapping a three-loss streak.

"It just ups the ante, I guess - we know we lose and we're out," Leuluai said.

"We sort of knew that last week and I think we showed a bit of desperation, which is something we maybe lacked in the previous three weeks."

Against the Titans, Leuluai continued his record of being the only Warrior to play every minute this season.

The five-eighth also showed again his defensive ability, saving what seemed a certain try with his tackle on winger Kevin Gordon.

The 30-Test Kiwi said defence was something he enjoyed and he was happy to be posted close to the ruck rather getting some respite wider out.

"I just find it easier having a big guy run at me than taking on a sharp centre," he said.

In the dying stages, Leuluai produced a more controversial move - and left the Titans claiming a penalty - when he slid in feet first as Gordon attempted to nail the match-winning score.

He said his only motive was to stop a try, but admitted he might have to do something different if faced with the same scenario again.


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