The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Vodafone Warriors fullback Brent Webb is under doctor's orders to follow a rest and recovery programme on his back injury. The 24-year-old returned to the side against Wests Tigers last Saturday night after being withdrawn from the line-up for each of the Vodafone Warriors' previous two matches against North Queensland and South Sydney. However, he was replaced early in the second half in Christchurch and didn't return. He ran with the team at training yesterday but the club's doctor Chris Hanna says Webb needs to rest his injury. "We tested his strength yesterday and it had deteriorated since Saturday night's game," said Hanna. "Brent has a small disc injury with some nerve irritation, which needs a period or rest and recovery."
Hanna said Webb would need to be strength-tested before he could be considered for the Vodafone Warriors' home encounter with Penrith on May 1. With Webb unable to play, head coach Tony Kemp today named Jerome Ropati to again fill the fullback's role for Sunday's match against the Knights in Newcastle. Two other changes were forced through the suspensions handed out to vice-captain Monty Betham and interchange hooker Tevita Latu. An early guilty plea means Betham will miss six matches on a grade three dangerous throw charge. Latu is defending his grade five careless high tackle charge. If the case is lost, he will be suspended for three matches. "Discipline has hurt us this season and we know we have to do something about it," said Kemp. "We've already had four players suspended and we can't let things go on this way. We just have to be smarter and we're working to find a cure." Ruben Wiki completes his four-match ban this weekend while Louis Anderson missed the South Sydney match. With Betham out, Kemp has made some rearrangements in his starting line-up. Manu Vatuvei returns to the wing, Todd Byrne - a tryscorer in each of the last three matches - switches to the centres and Sione Faumuina moves to loose forward to replace Betham. Brought into the side on the bench are prop Richard Villasanti for his third appearance this year and second rower Epalahame Lauaki for his first of the season. "We don't like losing players at any time, and we have a few out now through injury and suspension, but the depth of our squad shows through when you look at who we can call on," said Kemp. Sunday's match will be Wairangi Koopu's 98th for the club as his eyes becoming just the eighth player to make 100 NRL appearances for the Vodafone Warriors. The Vodafone Warriors are still in the top eight heading into round six while the Knights are last after losing all four games and collecting their only two points from a bye.
VODAFONE WARRIORS TEAM
1 JEROME ROPATI 2 FRANCIS MELI 3 TODD BYRNE 4 CLINTON TOOPI 5 MANU VATUVEI 6 LANCE HOHAIA 7 STACEY JONES 8 IAFETA PALEAAESINA 9 NATHAN FIEN 10 STEVE PRICE (C) 11 AWEN GUTTENBEIL 12 WAIRANGI KOOPU 13 SIONE FAUMUINA 14 LOUIS ANDERSON 15 KARL TEMATA 16 RICHARD VILLASANTI 24 EPALAHAME LAUAKI 18TH MAN: TOSHIO LAISENI