Rugged New Zealand Warriors forward Richard Villasanti will play for the Canterbury Bulls in their Bartercard Cup campaign opener against Taranaki at Rugby League Park on Saturday night.
Villasanti, who has been recovering from an off-season shoulder reconstruction, will bring with him the experience of 54 National Rugby League first-grade appearances, including last year's grand final.
Noted for his uncompromising defence, Villasanti became an unexpected bonus for the Bulls yesterday. They believed he would not be available for another two weeks.
Bulls coach Phil Prescott plans to use Villasanti off the bench, for maximum impact, while ensuring he gets as much game time as any of his front-rowers.
"First and foremost, we have entered into this to benefit from his experience. We haven't used a Warrior before and it's a matter of having our players taking note of how he prepares himself and what his ethics are," he said.
"We have a lot of young blokes whose work ethics have improved over the last 12 months. If they can learn some more from a professional footballer it has to be all the better for us."
In the past the Bulls have played against Warriors such as prop Mark Tookey and wing Francis Meli.
"It's a different ball game for Richard, too. He's not running out on to Ericsson Stadium. His motivation is going to have to come from within.
"But he should be well motivated after the start the Warriors have made. No doubt he wants to get back among them.
"I would like to think we would also get another couple of games out of him," said Bulls coach Phil Prescott.
By coincidence, the Bulls' next two fixtures are both curtain-raisers to the Warriors, against Eastern Tornadoes at Ericsson Stadium on April 27 and Wellington at Westpac Stadium on May 2.
Prescott's only reservation was having to tell an as-yet-unnamed forward his season had been delayed.
"If we hadn't taken up this option he would have played for another franchise. We could have trotted out against him in the next two or three weeks," he said.