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Warriors look to ride Origin wave

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/05/2017 Angelo Risso

Limp defeats to Penrith and St George Illawarra may have already placed the Warriors' 2017 campaign on life support but five-eighth Kieran Foran insists his side isn't through just yet.

With four wins from 11 in 2017, the Warriors are well on track for a sixth straight year without NRL finals football - despite recruiting Kiwis playmaker Foran and coach Stephen Kearney in the off-season.

But with State of Origin season nigh, the Warriors have a golden opportunity to pick up the slack against an understrength Brisbane Broncos on Saturday.

Playmaker Anthony Milford, skipper Darius Boyd and bullish second-rower Matt Gillett will all miss their side's trans-Tasman trip on Queensland duty, as will Corey Oates, Josh McGuire and veteran Sam Thaiday.

The Warriors, meanwhile, have lost just the single player in Jacob Lillyman.

The Origin period has often been a golden one for the Auckland-based side, who are able to pit a full-strength squad against heavily weakened opponents.

They have won 70 per cent of Origin-period matches between 2012 and 2016, according to Fox Sports, compared to just 21 per cent of matches afterwards.

And while Foran insisted the Broncos' second-string players would provide their own challenges - particularly Benji Marshall - he backed his teammates to quickly bounce back from their demoralising post-Trans Tasman Test defeats.

A second-half capitulation to the Panthers two weeks ago was followed by an equally soft performance against the Dragons in Hamilton, going down 30-14.

"We're all fully aware of the challenge that lies ahead, generally when teams are understrength they perform even better," Foran said.

"More than ever, we're on top of the ball - we know we need to take our game to another level to get ourselves out of where we are."

Kearney has remained calm in the face of howling fan discontent thus far, keeping the faith with a number of underperforming troops.

He has named a mostly unchanged side for the clash in south Auckland, bar Simon Mannering's return from a hamstring complaint.

The industrious former captain has been sorely missed by the side, and Foran labelled the long-serving lock as irreplaceable.

But he warned against expecting Mannering to be the Warriors' saviour.

"You miss a number of his attributes, his work ethic is phenomenal, the way he tidies up around the ruck, the on-field leadership," Foran said.

"We're over the moon to get him back, (but) hopefully all 17 players can put in a really strong performance."

STATS THAT MATTER:

- The Warriors have won 11 of their last 15 NRL games at Mount Smart Stadium, but only six of 28 at other New Zealand venues.

- Since 2012, the Warriors have won 70 per cent of NRL matches played during the State of Origin period. Brisbane have won just 50 per cent.

- Brisbane's 36-0 thrashing of Wests Tigers last week made them just the fourth Broncos side in history to score 24 points or more in six straight games.

(SOURCE: FOX SPORTS LAB)

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