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No worries for new-look Warriors

No worries for new-look Warriors
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has been named to return from a groin injury to face the Knights in Round 23. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.

The Warriors' team for this Sunday's meeting with the Knights bears little resemblance to the 17 which limped home against Cronulla last week, but it's business as usual as far as the players are concerned.

In a major overhaul from the side which beat the cellar-swelling Sharks 16-12 last Sunday, coach Andrew McFadden has made seven changes, including new personnel in the pivotal seven and nine jerseys.

"Some of those changes were obviously forced [due to injuries to Tuimoala Lolohea and Dane Nielsen] and the dynamic of the team changes as well," McFadden said.

"Pushing Ben Henry out to the centres has an impact on our back row. But we are happy with the players we have put in there.

"The dynamic has changed significantly from last week, but that was just forced upon us with those injuries to our outside backs."

With the electric Shaun Johnson returning to action following a three-week layoff with a groin injury, the attacking style of the team will have a vastly different flavour to that of last week.

Johnson brings with him a running game the New Zealanders missed in his absence, and on Sunday he combines with a new hooker in Thomas Leuluai, who replaces defensive workhorse Nathan Friend.

"I have played a lot of football [at hooker] and done a lot of practice; I know what I have to do there," Leuluai said.

"You do have a big influence on the game, you are the first person to touch the ball so you control how the games go. 

"Your role changes but I know how that position best suits me, I just have to go out there and do it."

McFadden also confirmed that Johnson would be at full health for the clash at Hunter Stadium.

"He is 100 per cent and we are very happy he is back in the side," McFadden said.

"I am confident [in his fitness], at a pinch we could have played him last weekend. He has done all the work, all the rehab and ticked all the boxes – he is ready to go.

"He is happy with his progress and is obviously feeling good and has slotted straight back in."

The Warriors went through the opening half of the season without too many injury woes, but as of this week they have used more players [31] than any team in the competition bar the Sharks.

Veteran prop Sam Rapira, who himself has spent time on the sidelines battling injury, said that under McFadden the team is better prepared for a high turnover of players.

With the same systems and structures now operating across the club's NRL, NSW Cup and Holden Cup teams, players stepping up can be confident that they understand their role.

"Everything is the same no matter who comes into the squad. Our structure and process is the same, if you are in that position you run the play and that is the bottom line," Rapira said.

"Nothing changes for us which is good."

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