Metcalf to start at five-eighth in opener

Luke Metcalf of the Warriors passes during an NRL preseason match against the Dolphins at Mt...
Luke Metcalf of the Warriors passes during an NRL preseason match against the Dolphins at Mt Smart Stadium last month. Metcalf will start for the Warriors against Cronulla Sutherland on Friday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Luke Metcalf has claimed the hotly contested spot as Shaun Johnson’s halves partner for Warriors’ season-opening clash against Cronulla Sutherland in Auckland on Friday night.

Metcalf has been preferred ahead of Te Maire Martin and the returning Chanel Harris-Tavita after featuring in the halves in each of the club’s preseason matches, against the Wests Tigers and the Dolphins.

Taine Tuaupiki starts at fullback, replacing the unavailable Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who is out with a hamstring injury, while forward Marata Niukore is also missing, ruled out with a minor foot fracture picked up in the trial against the Dolphins last month.

Making his return to the NRL after a two and a-half year absence is former captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who will line up in the centres in his 112th match for the club and his 196th NRL appearance overall.

Of the starting pack used in last year’s preliminary final against Brisbane, the only change is in the second row, where 139-game new signing Kurt Capewell comes into the second row alongside Jackson Ford.

While Tuivasa-Sheck moves within four games of his 200-game milestone, winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak clocks up his 191st career appearance.

The interchange bench comprises hooker Freddy Lussick, middle forwards Tom Ale and Bunty Afoa and utility Dylan Walker.

The match, which is close to selling out, is the first season-opener at Go Media (Mt Smart) Stadium since 2019, and just the third in 15 years.

The Warriors beat the Sharks home and away last season, winning 32-30 in Sydney and 44-12 at at home, but Cronulla Sutherland holds a 28-20 edge overall in 48 encounters between the clubs since 1995.

Warriors v Sharks

Friday, 8pm, Go Media Stadium Mt Smart

Warriors: Taine Tuaupiki, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Rocco Berry,  Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Marcelo Montoya, Luke Metcalf, Shaun Johnson, Addin Fonua-Blake, Wayde Egan, Mitchell Barnett, Jackson Ford,  Kurt Capewell,  Tohu Harris (c). Interchange:  Freddy Lussick, Tom Ale, Bunty Afoa, Dylan Walker. Extended bench: Adam Pompey, Jazz Tevaga, Te Maire Martin,  Ali Leiataua. Jacob Laban.