The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Vodafone Warriors head coach Tony Kemp has shuffled the captaincy, recalled hooker Lance Hohaia and lost loose forward Sione Faumuina for Sunday?s NRL match against the Melbourne Storm at Ericsson Stadium. The 24-year-old Faumuina is out for one game after taking an early guilty plea on a grade one careless high tackle charge from Saturday night?s loss to St George Illawarra. And Hohaia returns immediately after serving a club-imposed one-match ban over a breach of protocol after the 21-4 win over Wests Tigers. With Faumuina out, Betham moves back to his preferred loose forward?s position with Hohaia stepping back into the No 9 jersey. Jones will assume the captaincy, which he had in the win over South Sydney two weeks ago. ?We want Monty to be able to concentrate solely on leading the defence which will need to be at its best against a side like the Storm,? said Kemp. ?He gave us so much value with his work in the middle of the park earlier in the season. That?s the work ethic we?ll need in our last 12 matches as we strive to make the finals.?
After serving a six-match suspension, the 27-year-old Betham returned to lead the Vodafone Warriors in their 32-18 loss to the Dragons last Saturday night. With Hohaia unavailable he also reverted to his old hooker?s position, topping the side?s tackle count with 36 tackles during the 62 minutes he was on the field. ?Monty?s attitude has been outstanding. He really wants to see Stacey finish the right way at the club and, with Steve (Price) out injured, he saw this as a great chance to enable Stacey to do that. ?The captaincy also brings out the best in Stacey. We certainly saw that in the win over Souths and we need Stacey to be a dominant figure in our pursuit of a place in the semi-finals.? Hohaia?s enforced absence from NRL duty resulted in him turning out for Waikato against Auckland in Huntly yesterday. Vodafone Warriors coaching staff and players were there to support him. ?Unfortunate circumstances led to Lance missing the trip to Wollongong but he was playing well before his misdemeanour and we?re happy to bring him back now he has done his time,? said Kemp. While 101-game veteran winger Francis Meli was replaced just 19 minutes into the match against the Dragons, Kemp said his big-match experience was a significant factor in him retaining his starting spot against the Storm. ?He?s tried and tested and this is a really big game for us, one we need to win,? said Kemp. ?We?ve asked Francis to give us what we know he can provide when he prepares well. We saw that in our recent performances before the St George Illawarra match.? Starting prop Richard Villasanti makes his 99th NRL appearance on Sunday. Melbourne will go into the match without its three Queensland State of Origin players Billy Slater, Matt King and Cameron Smith while prop Ian Donnelly is also suspended for two matches after entering an early guilty plea for a contrary conduct charge during the Storm?s 30-14 win over Wests Tigers on Sunday. ?Melbourne might be without those players but we have to get that out of our minds,? said Kemp. ?We have to get our preparation right this weekend and show we?re ready from the outset.? The match has a later kick-off of 4.30pm.
VODAFONE WARRIORS V MELBOURNE STORM
Ericsson Stadium, Auckland
4.30pm, Sunday, June 12
1 BRENT WEBB 2 FRANCIS MELI 3 CLINTON TOOPI 4 JEROME ROPATI 5 TODD BYRNE 6 NATHAN FIEN 7 STACEY JONES (C) 8 RUBEN WIKI 9 LANCE HOHAIA 10 RICHARD VILLASANTI 11 LOUIS ANDERSON 12 WAIRANGI KOOPU 13 MONTY BETHAM 14 IAFETA PALEAAESINA 15 KARL TEMATA 16 MANU VATUVEI 17 AWEN GUTTENBEIL