Warriors v Broncos preview

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Warriors v Brisbane Broncos Saturday 5:30pm at McLean Park, Napier / Aotearoa

New faces in Napier

A rested and rejuvenated New Zealand Warriors will make their first premiership appearance in Napier against an Origin-depleted Brisbane Broncos on Saturday evening.

Coming into the representative period fresh off a bye and without a single player involved in the interstate series, the New Zealand Warriors will be aiming to capitalise on their weakened opponents in a bid to remain inside the top eight.

Welcoming back Jackson Ford and Demitric Sifakula as part of a reshuffle that sees Wayde Egan and Dylan Walker out of the squad, coach Andrew Webster has named speedster Luke Metcalf to make his club debut at five-eighth after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained during the pre-season.

The Warriors have won five of their past nine Origin-affected matches over the past decade; Saturday will be the first time a pre-Origin fixture has been held in New Zealand since 2017, where the Warriors incidentally defeated the Broncos.

Heading across the Tasman without five of their representative stars, the Brisbane Broncos will be out to halt a poor run of form over the past month.

Losing three of their past four matches, including a 15-4 defeat at the hands of the Panthers last Thursday, coach Kevin Walters has been forced to draw upon his side's depth to cover for Origin quintet Reece Walsh, Selwyn Cobbo, Thomas Flegler, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan.

Handing Deine Mariner, Xavier Willison and Brendan Piakura their first starts of the year, along with recalling Keenan Palasia up front, former Dragons utility Tristan Sailor will play his first match in nearly three years at fullback after working his way back from legal issues with Souths Logan over the past 13 months.

Matches between the two sides have been closely fought during the last decade with the Warriors holding a slender advantage of eight wins and a draw from 15 clashes. 

Last meeting: Round 4 2022 - Warriors 20 Broncos 6

Who to watch: Announcing himself as one of the breakout stars of the trials only to be cruelly cut down by injury, Warriors fans will be salivating at the prospect of seeing Luke Metcalf on the field. Boasting scintillating pace capable of turning a missed tackle into a length-of-the field effort, the 24-year-old utility will become the fourth player to line up alongside Shaun Johnson in the halves this season. Playing seven matches with Cronulla predominantly off the bench over the past two years, expect Metcalf to cause plenty of havoc on Saturday evening.

Making a timely return after missing last week's loss through injury, the Broncos will be relying upon Adam Reynolds to mastermind an upset across the ditch. Producing ten try-assists and eight forced drop-outs in 11 appearances this season, the 32-year-old has been surprisingly off target with a goal kicking rate (73%) well below his career average (82%). Boasting more first grade experience than his entire backline combined, Reynolds will be crucially important if the Broncos are to improve upon their 50% record in pre-Origin matches over the past decade.

Favourite: New Zealand are expected to prevail in the first premiership match held in Napier since Melbourne defeated St George Illawarra in 2015.

My tip: While much has been made over who is unavailable for the Broncos, the strike and experience of Staggs, Farnworth, Reynolds, Capewell and Taupau could pave the way for a win against the odds. Broncos by 2.

1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Rocco Berry 4. Adam Pompey 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Luke Metcalf 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Freddy Lussick 10. Bunty Afoa 11. Jackson Ford 12. Marata Niukore 13. Tohu Harris 14. Bayley Sironen 15. Josh Curran 16. Demitric Sifakula 17. Tom Ale 20. Taine Tuaupiki

1. Tristan Sailor 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Deine Mariner 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Keenan Palasia 9. Billy Walters 10. Corey Jensen 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Kobe Hetherington 14. Cory Paix 15. Xavier Willison 16. Brendan Piakura 17. Martin Taupau 20. Delouise Hoeter

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Matt Noyen;

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