Prop Iafeta Paleaaesina moves into the starting line-up to replace the suspended Ruben Wiki for the Vodafone Warriors� NRL home encounter with North Queensland on Sunday. The 32-year-old Wiki faced a grade three careless high tackle charge on Brisbane�s David Stagg in the 72nd minute of Saturday night�s clash with the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
After careful consideration, an early guilty plea was entered this afternoon meaning the Kiwi captain will miss matches against North Queensland and South Sydney � both at Ericsson Stadium � plus the Christchurch encounter with Wests Tigers and the away trip to Newcastle.
With the Vodafone Warriors having the first of their two byes in round seven, Wiki won�t be available again until the home match against Penrith on the weekend of April 29-May 1.
In his absence 23-year-old Paleaaesina will partner captain Steve Price in the front row against the Cowboys at Ericsson Stadium. While many of Paleaaesina�s 63 NRL matches have been off the bench, he was a starting prop 15 times last season.
His move from the bench is the only change to the run-on combination used in the 24-12 victory over Brisbane.
Paleaaesina�s elevation has resulted in head coach Tony Kemp naming a five-man bench. Tevita Latu, Louis Anderson and Sione Faumuina retain their spots but Kemp is undecided on whether Karl Temata or Richard Villasanti will be his interchange prop on Sunday.
�We will wait on that choice,� said Kemp. �We want to see how they go in training over the rest of the week before making a final decision.
�Villa played in the opening round but was out of contention with a minor injury for the Brisbane game while Karl was unavailable for the first two matches.�
The match will edge centre Clinton Toopi within reach of a key milestone when he makes his 99th first grade appearance. He�ll be on target to bring up his 100th match against South Sydney at Ericsson Stadium on April 3 � the club he made his debut against six years ago.
Sunday�s match will also be significant for Vodafone Warriors hooker Nathan Fien and defence co-ordinator Kevin Campion. They were both in the Cowboys side that charged into the play-offs last season for the first time in the club�s history.
Kemp is under no illusions about the threat the North Queenslanders pose after starting their season with a 16-29 loss to Brisbane and a 24-12 victory over the 2004 premiership-winning Bulldogs last Friday night.
�We�re very pleased with the improvement we made against Brisbane but the Cowboys pose another challenge again,� he said.
�They have strong front rowers in Paul Rauhihi, Carl Webb and Shane Tronc and are backed up by so many quick players like Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Matt Sing, Johnathan Thurston and Aaron Payne. We�ll have to come up with another quality performance to match them.�
Kemp and his coaching staff took special pleasure from the Brisbane win in a number of areas. Props Price and Wiki plus back rowers Awen Guttenbeil and Monty Betham all had gains of far more than 100 metres, Price with 223 metres alone. The completion rate was up to an impressive 78 per cent with just eight of 36 sets not completed.
VODAFONE WARRIORS TEAM
1 BRENT WEBB 2 TODD BYRNE 3 TONY MARTIN 4 CLINTON TOOPI 5 FRANCIS MELI 6 JEROME ROPATI 7 STACEY JONES 8 IAFETA PALEAAESINA 9 NATHAN FIEN 10 STEVE PRICE (C) 11 AWEN GUTTENBEIL 12 WAIRANGI KOOPU 13 MONTY BETHAM (VC) 14 TEVITA LATU 15 KARL TEMATA 16 LOUIS ANDERSON 17 SIONE FAUMUINA 20 RICHARD VILLASANTI