29 Jan 2016

Warriors star returns for NRL Nines

11:47 am on 29 January 2016

Warriors' star halfback Shaun Johnson has been confirmed to make his comeback from injury at the NRL Nines in Auckland next weekend.

Shaun Johnson takes a selfie with Konrad Hurrell, Warriors team naming for the NRL Auckland Nines, 2016.

Shaun Johnson takes a selfie with Konrad Hurrell, Warriors team naming for the NRL Auckland Nines, 2016. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 25-year-old will again captain the team and will be joined in the home side's line-up by big name recruit Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, though Kiwis hooker Issac Luke hasn't been named.

Luke has a couple of niggly injuries and is being rested.

"We're naturally excited we've been able to pick Shaun and he's certainly excited about having the chance to come back from his ankle surgery at the Nines," said coach Andrew McFadden.

"He had to be confident and he is. He really looks forward to playing in this tournament and we couldn't be happier to have him ready to go and to be our captain again."

Four of the club's 2016 signings have been selected to make their Warriors debuts at Eden Park - Kiwis fullback Tuivasa-Sheck, former Sharks backs Blake Ayshford and Jeff Robson and Queensland Cup recruit Henare Wells.

Ayshford will be making his third straight Nines appearance, Tuivasa-Sheck will have his second outing and Robson and Wells their first.

"Everyone knows what Roger can do while Henare has out and out pace," said McFadden.

"Blake was in the Cronulla side that made it to the final last year and he was also named in the team of the tournament while Jeff is going to be valuable with his direction."

Three of the club's most experienced forwards have been chosen in props Jacob Lillyman and Ben Matulino plus second rower Ryan Hoffman, while there's also front row support from 2015 NRL rookies Albert Vete and Sam Lisone as well as Charlie Gubb.

Lillyman and Vete will be playing in the Nines for the first time, Lisone and Matulino are back from last year's squad, Gubb returns after being involved in the 2014 event and Hoffman is appearing for the third straight time.

"The boys in the middle are really important. We need forwards who can give us some minutes and this group of players offer that," said McFadden.

Centre Solomone Kata and utility Tuimoala Lolohea have been named for the third year on end while outside backs Konrad Hurrell and David Fusitu'a both return after featuring in 2014 but missing the event last year.

Outside back Ken Maumalo is retained while the experienced Jonathan Wright has sealed a place this year after suspension ruled him out last season; he was in Cronulla's line-up at Eden Park in 2014.

Apart from Taumarunui-born Wells, Vete, Lillyman and Robson, the only other player set to make his Nines debut is 18-year-old playmaker Ata Hingano, who won the club's under 20's Rookie of the Year accolade last year.

The Warriors have been drawn in the Hunua Pool with the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Broncos.

They start their campaign against the Bulldogs at 2.20pm on the first day (February 6th) and face the Sea Eagles at 6.15pm.

Their final pool game against the Broncos is scheduled for 12.40pm on the second day (February 7th). The top two teams from each pool advance to the quarter-finals.

-RNZ

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