NRL 2020: NZ Warriors' Karl Lawton to start at centre against Penrith Panthers

Karl Lawton has been named to start in the centres in one of a pair of changes to the Warriors side to take on the Penrith Panthers in Sydney on Friday.

Lawton- who typically plies his trade at hooker - replaces the injured Peta Hiku, after impressing in his injury-enforced shift to the midfield in the 18-0 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday.

After joining the squad in Australia late, regular David Fusitu'a isn't yet ready to return to the field, which gives Lawton a start in the No.3 jersey he hasn't worn since his NRL debut for the Gold Coast Titans against the Warriors in 2016.

The other change sees Roosters loan player Poasa Faamausili join the bench for Agnatius Paasi.

Paasi has copped a one-game suspension for dangerous contact against the Dragons, having entered an early guilty plea.

The 24-year-old Auckland-born Faamausili, who has joined his new teammates on loan this week, is straight into the fray for what will be his 15th NRL appearance.

NRL 2020: NZ Warriors' Karl Lawton to start at centre against Penrith Panthers

Coach Stephen Kearney has retained the same starting forward pack, while Josh Curran moves on to the bench as back-up hooker to replace Lawton.

The forwards played a key role in last weekend's win, gaining the upper hand over the star-studded Dragons pack.

Wayde Egan aside, who puts in an 80-minute shift at rake - all of the the forwards topped 100 metres. Tohu Harris was the best of them with 219m, while Katoa made 181, Taunoa-Brown 133, Blair 122 and Papali’i 121.

Coming off the bench, rookie King Vuniyayawa made 111 metres in his 29 minutes on the field.

The fourth-placed Panthers are coming off a torrid 14-14 draw against the Newcastle Knights in their NRL restart on Sunday.