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Preview: New Zealand Warriors vs Gold Coast Titans

The Titans run of good fortune looks set to all fall apart, as an injury hit Gold Coast side travel to New Zealand to take on the in form Warriors. Gun halfback Ashley Taylor has been ruled out with a groin injury, with rookie playmaker Cameron Cullen to play his third NRL game in his place. Veteran Nathan Friend will also miss the opportunity to face his former side on the week he announced his retirement, as he will miss the clash with a hand injury. 20 year old utility Karl Lawton will make his NRL debut, slotting in at centre, which will push Chris McQueen back into his preferred spot in the second row. Shaun Johnson has been battling a leg injury, but will be fine to take on the Titans.

Last Time Out
The Titans had a very mixed game against Canberra on Sunday, trailing 30-10 at one stage in the second half, before scoring two late tries to make the scoreboard a respectable 30-22. The Titans forward pack were disappointing against the Raider’s big men, however Ryan James was once again exceptional. The Gold Coast’ big men will need to improve against the Warriors mobile pack.

The Warriors were agonisingly close to breaking the Sharks incredible winning streak, falling 19-18 from a heartbreaking James Maloney field goal in golden time. The New Zealand club have been on a hot streak in the past month, winning 3 games in a row before flexing their premiership muscle against the competition leaders. Last weeks game proved that the Warriors are a genuine top eight threat, and can match it with the best of sides.

Key Battles
Chris McQueen was named to play in the unfamiliar position of right centre, however with the injury to Nathan Friend, Karl Lawton will make his debut in the centres, with McQueen pushing back into the forward pack and Leivaha Pulu moving onto the bench. McQueen was to be tasked with the job of stopping the Warriors wrecking ball, centre Solomone Kata, however he will now have perhaps an even more important task. McQueen will need to be on the top of his game protecting the inexperienced Lawton, who at just 20 years of age plays his first NRL game in the somewhat unfamiliar position of centre. Not only will McQueen have to assist in the task of containing the explosive Kata, he will also need to contain his opposing back rower, former Origin representative Ryan Hoffman. If McQueen can’t keep the Warriors left edge under control, it could be a nightmare debut for young Lawton.

The Titans have been credited for their never say die attitude this season, however they face the immense challenge of taking on a red hot Warriors outfit in New Zealand, with an injury depleted squad. The Warriors should win this one relatively comfortably, and leapfrog their way towards the NRL’s top eight.


Warriors: 1 David Fusitu’a 2 Tuimoala Lolohea, 3 Blake Ayshford, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Thomas Leuluai, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Albert Vete, 11 Bodene Thompson, 12 Ryan Hoffman (c), 13 Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14 Nathaniel Roache, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Ben Matulino, 17 Charlie Gubb

Titans: 1 William Zillman (c) 2 Anthony Don 3 Josh Hoffman 4 Chris McQueen 5 Nene Macdonald 6 Tyrone Roberts 7 Ash Taylor 8 Luke Douglas 9 Nathan Peats 10 Ryan James 11 Zeb Taia 12 Leivaha Pulu 13 Greg Bird. Interchange: 14 Eddy Pettybourne, 15 Ryan Simpkins 16 Agnatius Paasi 17 Nathan Friend (c)

Brock joined NothingButLeague in 2015 and is an aspiring sports journalist who supports the Gold Coast Titans.

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