O'Brien tells Knights it's time to defend

Scott Bailey
Adam O'Brien will debut as an NRL head coach against New Zealand on Saturday

Adam O'Brien has a background in defence and he's told Newcastle to make it their foundation as they enter a new chapter under the rookie NRL coach.

O'Brien will lead the Knights for the first time in Saturday's home clash with the Warriors, after stints as an assistant at Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters.

He was the attack coach at both clubs but knows only too well they built their success on defence.

Claiming five premierships between them, the Storm and Roosters have been the best defensive sides of the past decade.

And it's a quality O'Brien wants to instill in his new charges in his first head coaching role - especially after they leaked a worrying 522 points last season.

"We don't need to jump into that feel-good attack straight away. We need to earn that right," O'Brien said.

"From day one we have spoken about setting a standard both in terms of effort and defence.

"Our attack will evolve as the season goes on but I am looking forward to us setting a standard with our effort, how resilient we are.

"And defending our home ground."

O'Brien admitted on Friday he was nervous ahead of his first match, six months after taking over from Nathan Brown at the end of last season.

Meanwhile the Warriors are confident Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will overcome a foot injury to play.

The 2018 Dally M Medallist was injured in a trial match two weeks ago and shapes as a key inclusion.

STATS THAT MATTER:

* The Warriors have won six of their past eight matches against Newcastle

* Newcastle's six-year absence from the finals is the longest in their history

* The Knights were ranked bottom two for run metres (1356 per game), post-contact metres (428 and offloads (7.8 per game) in 2019.

Stats: Fox Sports