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No chop for sub-par Warriors, yet

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017 Angelo Risso

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has declined to "send panic through the organisation" by wielding the axe on an underperforming squad for this weekend's NRL clash with Brisbane, but admits his patience is wearing thin.

The Auckland-based side slumped to a 30-14 loss to St George Illawarra in Hamilton last week, their second consecutive NRL defeat after capitulating at Penrith.

As a result, they have dropped to 14th on the NRL ladder with just four wins from 11 games, and already require a major uptick in form to make the finals.

Nevertheless, Kearney has picked a mostly unchanged side for Saturday's match in Auckland, with Simon Mannering's inclusion the only notable change.

He maintained the current squad was more than capable of working its way up the table but needed to play with more focus and physicality.

The Warriors gave up 57 missed tackles and 20 offloads to a rampant Dragons outfit in the Waikato and watched on helplessly as their right edge was carved open.

A gilded attack, led by the side's all-Test spine, also struggled.

Their poor form was rather baffling to Kearney, who had previously seen his troops produce gritty wins over the Roosters, Eels and Titans.

"We've made a couple subtle adjustments, get Simon back this week, a couple changes - but the last thing I want to do is send panic through the organisation," Kearney said.

"I'll look at that (other playing options) certainly after this weekend.

"I take myself back to two performances ago, and for five weeks previous to that, the guys have done a pretty good job."

Mannering's return from a hamstring strain is a major boon for the Warriors, who will be able to capitalise on his leadership, intensity and defensive work-rate.

The 30-year-old ex-captain often makes up to 50 tackles per game - but Kearney warned against expecting the lock to solve every problem.

"What I'm very mindful of is that it's not for Simon to come back and fix the issues - we've got issues individuals have to fix themselves," Kearney said.

The Broncos have been ravaged by State of Origin call-ups this week, with the likes of Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford and Matt Gillett all set to miss their side's trans-Tasman trip.

As a result, veteran playmaker Benji Marshall steps into Milford's shoes for a Broncos debut, while Kiwis regulars Jordan Kahu and Adam Blair will certainly play.

The Warriors, meanwhile, will only lose veteran prop Jacob Lillyman after the Queenslander was named on Kevin Walters' bench for a 14th Origin appearance.

Kearney expected no drop-off in performance from the Broncos, with whom he spent four years as an assistant coach before moving to south Auckland.

"The style of football Wayne (Bennett) educates his players to play, a high completion game, I think they're ranked in the top two completion teams in the competition - which always give you an opportunity to compete," Kearney said.

"First and foremost, that's what he drills into the whole squad.

"Regardless of who they put in there, they're going to come ready."

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