Warriors expect bruising encounter
The Warriors' forward pack are bracing for a tough battle in the middle of the park on Sunday at Cbus Super Stadium, featuring a number of familiar faces now playing for the Titans.
The Gold Coast pack contains four Kiwis in Zeb Taia, Eddy Pettybourne, Leivaha Pulu and Agnatius Paasi, with several members of the current Warriors squad having played with them at international level or through the lower grades at the New Zealand club.
It creates yet another talking point for a game which will be pivotal to the top eight hopes of both teams, with the game also featuring the likely NRL Telstra Premiership return of Jarryd Hayne.
Warriors front-rower Ben Matulino said the Gold Coast pack were underrated, but a huge reason why the Titans sit seventh on the ladder heading into the Round 22 clash.
"It's going to be a massive challenge, they have all been playing well as well, so it's a massive encounter for us and I am looking forward to it," Matulino said.
"They have been flying under the radar and they haven’t been given the credit that they need.
"If you look at their game last week they took it to the Cronulla pack who have been one of the best all year."
On Monday night the Titans clocked up 1705 run metres against the Sharks, with both Taia and Greg Bird busting through for over 200 on their own.
Gold Coast were the first team to register more than 1700 metres against ladder-leading Cronulla since the Warriors in Round 16.
Warriors prop Albert Vete told NRL.com that containing two Kiwi enforcers who will come off the Titans' interchange would need to be a focus.
"It's always good to play against 'Iggy' (Paasi), he is a tough player from the bench, strong on defence and attack and has got an offload," Vete said.
"I don't think Pulu has missed a game either, so he will be confident leading into the back end of the season.
"We do have to match what those guys will bring from the interchange, but it starts at the start of the game with [Luke] Douglas and [Ryan] James, if we can match that then Sam Lisone and Ben Matulino can come off the bench and do their thing."
Paasi in particular has enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2016, and in 19 games to date is averaging 12 carries, 113 metres and 20.5 tackles.
A long-time member of the Warriors' system, making his NRL debut for the club in 2014, 24-year-old Paasi is a player Matulino said was always destined to make an impact at first-grade level.
"Not at all [surprised to see what he has done], he has got all the skillset that a back-rower needs, he can fill in at lock, back row or prop, he can play anywhere," Matulino said.
"I am not too surprised at how well he is going."