Warriors v Roosters
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 8.00pm (NZT)
In a clash of two sides left scorned after poor performances and defeats last up, the question for this Saturday is who can respond better out of the Warriors and Roosters.
The New Zealand side come off their worst loss of the season against the Rabbitohs in Perth, with coach Andrew McFadden clearly unhappy with what he saw in the 36-4 loss, triggering a bunch of changes for this week.
Hooker Siliva Havili has been dropped, while Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Charlie Gubb come in to cover for the loss of Jacob Lillyman and Ryan Hoffman to State of Origin duty.
Fullback Sam Tomkins is back from injury, and Ken Maumalo will partner Konrad Hurrell in a new-look right edge.
The Roosters might have only lost 10-4 last Sunday against the Sharks, but it was among their worst showings all year.
If they are to turn around against the Warriors they will have to do it without halfback Mitchell Pearce, strike centre Michael Jennings and back-rowers Boyd Cordner and Aidan Guerra who are away in Origin camp, while Kiwi prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is a late withdrawal through injury.
The absence of the Origin quartet means youngster Jackson Hastings will wear the No.7, former Warrior Sio Siua Taukeiaho will start in the second row and Matt McIlwrick, Brendan Elliot and Willie Manu join Trent Robinson's squad.
Watch out Warriors: He will be all theirs next year, but for now Roger Tuivasa-Sheck remains the Warriors' biggest threat in a Roosters jersey. The lively Kiwi flyer has run for more metres than any other player in the competition this season, averaging 239 per game along with a total of 52 tackles busts and four tries.
A nasty word crept into the Warriors' play last week against the Rabbitohs. "Soft" was the best way to describe several of the tries they conceded against the defending premiers, in a game where they missed 37 tackles and leaked nine line breaks. They need to nip it in the bud this week before it becomes a habit.
Watch out Roosters: Last Sunday against the Tricolours were poor in almost every basic area of the game. They completed just 53 percent of their sets, missed 35 tackles and came up with 20 errors in the loss. Unless the Roosters can improve quickly they won't give themselves a chance of beating the Warriors.
The Warriors' back five were damaging coming out of their own end last week, with all except Jonathan Wright, who only played 38 minutes before leaving the field injured, running for over 100 metres. In 20-year-old winger Maumalo the Kiwi side have unearthed another big body to go with Manu Vatuvei on the left, and this week they welcome back Konrad Hurrell who in five games has averaged 10 carries for 129 metres.
The History: Played 33; Warriors 18, Roosters 14, Drawn 1. Meetings between these two sides have been fairly even over the last few years, with neither winning back-to-back games against the other since 2012. Three of their past four meetings have also been decided by 11 points or less.
What Are The Odds: The money with Sportsbet is running four to one in favour of the Roosters, with most of the money going on less than 39.5 points, suggesting we could be in for a tight, low-scoring affair. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Did You Know: The Roosters' 17 this week contains more Kiwi players than any side in the Telstra Premiership bar the Warriors and Bulldogs. Counting players who have either represented the Kiwis, or were born in New Zealand, the Roosters will have seven 'locals' take the field this weekend. The Bulldogs will field eight, while the Warriors have 12.
Match Officials: Referee – Gavin Badger; Assistant Referee – Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges – Steve Carrall and Anthony Eliott; Video Referees – Shayne Hayne and Luke Phillips.
Televised: Sky Sport – Live from 8.00pm NZT. Fox Sports – Live from 6.00pm AET
The Way We See It: The Roosters are probably a better team than the Warriors right now, but with the Bondi men missing four key players through Origin duty it evens out significantly this Saturday. With a couple of their own stars returning and the wounds from last week's embarrassment in Perth still fresh in their minds, the Warriors should be pumped and ready to take advantage of their weakened opposition. Like most of their wins this year it won't be pretty, but Warriors by four.