Rookies’ role: Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour. Photo: Getty Images Blues coach has had enough of NSW
Matt Moylan v Darius Boyd
One is playing his first Origin game. The other is playing his first game in the No.1 jumper. But all the pressure will be on NSW debutant Matt Moylan as he looks to fulfil the unenviable task to spark the Blues attack. The Panthers custodian will first need to survive the pressure from Queensland halves Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk before linking with his own six and seven to test Darius Boyd, who has scored 16 tries in 23 Origin appearances on the wing. Boyd has the added string to his bow of being widely regarded as the best defensive fullback in the game.
Robbie Farah v Cameron Smith
Hooker battle: Robbie Farah v Cameron Smith Photo: Janie Barrett
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Cameron Smith playing well in Origin. The Thursday wash-up will likely read 50-plus tackles, a deft kicking game and a crisp passing game that puts his forwards over the advantage line. At his best Robbie Farah can reproduce those numbers but enters the game short of a gallop and devoid of big-game practice. Smith’s combination with Cronk and Thurston is an added bonus for the Queensland and Australian skipper.
Paul Gallen/Aaron Woods v Matt Scott/Nate Myles
NSW State of Origin Captain Paul Gallen. Photo: Janie Barrett
Just as drive for show, putt for dough has held up in golf since the first feathery was knocked onto a green, there is one adage that epitomises State of Origin: if the forwards win the battle, backs win the war. On paper at least, the Blues pair of Paul Gallen and Aaron Woods dominate the Queenslands props Matt Scott and Nate Myles in every statistic including metres gained, tackle breaks and offloads. But this is Origin, and the Scott/Myles combination has been a staple of multiple Maroon victories and they have played a combined 48 times for their state. For NSW to win, one of Gallen or Woods need to get man of the match.
Adam Reynolds v Cooper Cronk
Maroons half Cooper Cronk. Photo: Getty Images
The No.7 battle is all about one thing: the kicking game. Adam Reynolds has been picked for his ability to kick into corners and get repeat sets and if he does that NSW will go a long way to winning. Cronk is facing his own separate battle just to get onto the field, but if he does his trademark passing and kicking game that has become standard for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia will be vital for Queensland. It’s no coincidence NSW’s only series victory in 2014 came when Cronk was injured. That same year Reynolds led the Rabbitohs to the title – can he do the same for the Blues?
James Tamou v Josh McGuire
Impact: Josh McGuire and James Tamou Photo: Mark Kolbe
Origin is an 80-minute game and Josh McGuire and James Tamou are vital cogs in the wheel for their respective teams. The duo are likely to be called into the game around the 20-minute mark and have one task: lift the intensity heading into half time. It could be argued both were unlucky to miss out on the starting team so the Australian teammates will have extra motivation when they get the call from the coach. Tamou and McGuire are consistent in what they bring to the table: big running metres and a large appetite for work that is tailored for Origin footy.
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