The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Jerome Ropati has been promoted to the starting line-up while Sione Faumuina and Tevita Latu both return from off-season operations for the Vodafone Warriors? second round NRL clash in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Head coach Tony Kemp has moved the 20-year-old Ropati from the bench to standoff to replace former Kiwi Lance Hohaia for the Suncorp Stadium encounter with the Broncos.
?The combination between Stacey (Jones) and Lance didn?t work quite as well as we had hoped against Manly on Sunday,? said Kemp.
?Jerome has been waiting in the wings and now he has his chance. It?s disappointing for Lance but we just want him to keep his nose to the grindstone and keep pushing.?
Hohaia will still travel with the team to Brisbane on Friday, selected as 18th man in the team named today.
Of the 17 players used in the opening round 20-26 loss to the Sea Eagles, only Richard Villasanti was ruled out of contention with a shoulder injury.
The changes have enabled Kemp to bring in 2004 Kiwis Faumuina and Latu, now both fully recovered from shoulder reconstruction operations.
Latu?s 2004 NRL season ended in the clash against Wests Tigers in Christchurch in June while Faumuina was able to see out the year before having surgery. Latu made his comeback in the Vodafone Warriors? second trial against the New Zealand President?s Selection last month but this will be Faumuina?s first match since his operation.
?Tevita has trained outstandingly and he comes in to give us another option at dummy half,? said Kemp.
?Sione started contact training a few weeks ago and returns right on schedule. He?ll provide cover for us in the back row and in the centres.?
After analysing Sunday?s performance against Manly, Kemp was further encouraged by several aspects of the team?s display.
?Our props Steve Price and Ruben Wiki were outstanding. They gave us the platform we wanted,? he said.
?Our defence was also strong and it was obviously a game we should have won. What we have to work on is our ball control.?
VODAFONE WARRIORS V BRISBANE
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 7.30pm, Saturday, March 19
VODAFONE WARRIORS TEAM:
1 BRENT WEBB 2 TODD BYRNE 3 TONY MARTIN 4 CLINTON TOOPI 5 FRANCIS MELI 6 JEROME ROPATI 7 STACEY JONES 8 RUBEN WIKI 9 NATHAN FIEN 10 STEVE PRICE (C) 11 AWEN GUTTENBEIL 12 WAIRANGI KOOPU 13 MONTY BETHAM (VC)
14 TEVITA LATU 15 IAFETA PALEAAESINA 16 LOUIS ANDERSON 17 SIONE FAUMUINA 18TH MAN: LANCE HOHAIA