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Kieran Foran set for Warriors debut

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/03/2017 Steve Zemek

Kieran Foran is back but will he be enough to convert the Warriors from basket cases to contenders?

The former New Zealand playmaker appears set to make his long-awaited return to the NRL with the Warriors in Sunday's clash with St George Illawarra.

Ata Hingano, who has filled in at No.6 in Foran's absence in the first three weeks, was dropped from the first-grade squad on Saturday after turning out for the Warriors NSW Cup team in Wollongong.

It's been a long road back for Foran after undergoing shoulder surgery, walking out less than a year into his contract with Parramatta, fighting a protracted battle with personal demons before receiving clearance from the NRL to return to the game through the Warriors.

He has not played since May last year and could have returned last week but was held back by coach Stephen Kearney because of his shoulder.

Foran will immediately be placed under pressure to deliver the club a top-four finish after their sustained under-achievement and a five-year absence from the finals.

Over the past eight seasons, they have made the top eight just twice, going through five head coaches in that time.

Now with an all-Kiwi Test spine of Foran, Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, there are many who will consider anything less than a top-four finish a disappointment.

"Just having his experience there, he was telling the boys where to go and what to do," skipper Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"The boys respond to that.

"There's three of us in the spine that are trying to control the team, not just all eyes on Shaun or getting Bully (Luke) to do all the work."

While Foran will have the limelight focused on him at Kogarah on Sunday, it's the Warriors forwards who shape as key.

The Dragons' big men, notably the in-form Jack de Belin and Canberra discard Paul Vaughan, have been a driving force behind their 2-1 start.

The Warriors lead the competition for tackle busts (36.7 per game) and have made the fourth most metres (1451m per game) behind North Queensland, Brisbane and Melbourne.

"The Warriors are a talented football team," coach Paul McGregor said.

"They have an international spine. But every battle is won up front first. It'll be interesting and it'll be physical. We're looking to do it on what we did well against Cronulla."

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Dragons have won the past three, and 10 of the past 13 matches at Kogarah. They have scored 20 points or more in eight of these 10 wins.

* Simon Mannering will become the most capped Warrior of all-time, playing in his 262nd match for the club and overtaking Stacey Jones.

* The Warriors have made the least linebreaks (3) and tackle busts (15.3) per game, while ranked second last for points scored (16 per game) and offloads (5.7).

Source: Fox Sports Stats

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