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Ah Van Replaces Tate, Jones Starts At Halfback Against Rabbitohs

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Ah Van Replaces Tate, Jones Starts At Halfback Against Rabbitohs

1 APRIL 2009 - Patrick Ah Van replaces the injured Brent Tate at right centre and veteran Stacey Jones will start at halfback when the Vodafone Warriors face South Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.

Ah Van, only just turned 21, has 39 NRL appearances to his name since his debut for the club in 2006 when he was just 18.

While he has been used predominantly on the wing and sometimes at fullback in the past, Ah Van's favoured position is in the centres.

He has impressed for the Auckland Vulcans in the opening three rounds of the New South Wales Cup competition after being used as a starting centre in the Vodafone Warriors' first two trials against Melbourne and North Queensland in February.

While he returns for his 40th match, the 32-year-old Jones, used from the bench in the Vodafone Warriors' last two matches, will be back in the No 7 jersey he last wore for the club in 2005. Nathan Fien goes to the interchange bench to provide cover at hooker and also halfback.

The highly-experienced Tate has been sidelined for the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in last Saturday night's encounter with his old club Brisbane. He is due to have surgery in two weeks.

Tate's injury has added to an injury list which already included Manu Vatuvei (knee), Lance Hohaia (knee), Ben Matulino (ankle), Mataupu Poching (ankle), Leeson Ah Mau (shoulder) and Evarn Tuimavave (neck).

Vatuvei will hopefully be available again next week while it's possible Hohaia and Matulino will also be cleared to play again.

"We had two fortunate years in 2006 and 2007 but early last season and again this year we've had a fair share of injuries," said coach Ivan Cleary.

"It's the nature of the game and the nature of the competition we play in that you will have casualties but you can't get hung up about it.

"We have to face up to the challenges they present, bring in other players to give them an opportunity and get on with it. That's the exciting side of it. Other players are being given a chance.

"We're certainly finding out about our depth at this early stage of the year but we have the greatest faith in our whole squad. That's what this year was always about."

Cleary expects nothing but the sternest examination from the Rabbitohs.

"They got us twice last year which was a huge disappointment, especially the way we played against them," said Cleary.

"They started the season brilliantly against the Sydney Roosters (52-12) and had another very good win over Newcastle (22-12) last weekend. They have every right to feel comfortable about playing against us.

"We're coming off an effort against Brisbane that didn't please us. We need to step up."

Sunday's match will have special significance as the Vodafone Warriors turn it into a celebration of Sonny Fai's life. There'll be a strong Polynesian flavour to the day with performances by Tiki Taane, Lapi Mariner and Rosita Vai as well cultural groups from Sonny's old school De La Salle College and his family church, the Samoan Methodist Church in Otahuhu.

The Fai family will be guests of honours while the first 5000 people to arrive will receive a lei to wear in memory of Sonny.

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