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Origin I Match-Ups: The Packs
In part two of our match-ups series with Origin correspondent Rick Edgerton, he looks at how the forward packs and interchange rotations size up for the series opener in Melbourne this Wednesday.
FRONT ROW: DAVID KLEMMER v JARROD WALLACE
A couple of big boppers that thrive off doing the tough work.
Once a firebrand who could at times get a little too out of control, Klemmer seems much more content these days to simply role up his sleeves and be his team's chief yardage man. Running for an average 172 metres per game this year, big Klemmer is also second only to Jason Taumololo for post contact metres with 73 per game. Won the Brad Fittler Medal for Blues best player last year on such stats and makes his run-on debut for the Blues after nine games off the bench previously. Will be sure to lead from the front again, but one can't help to feel unleashing a touch of that raw aggression he displayed when bursting onto the scene a few years back wouldn't be such a bad thing.
In the midst of another tough season on the Gold Coast, Wallace has been toiling away all year and most good patches of play the Titans have produced have come off the back of his go forward. Loves the tough stuff and showed throughout his two games for the Maroons last year he's suited to this arena. Should be raring to go this year off the back of the confidence he gained last year.
HOOKER: DAMIEN COOK v ANDREW McCULLOUGH
Which debutante steps up to become king of the ruck in the post Smith era?
Showing flashes of his brilliance out of dummy half throughout his short career, Cook has gone next-level since new club coach Anthony Siebold entrusted him to churn out 80 minutes a week. Gets through the work rate of any good number nine with an average 42 tackles a match, but it's his 109 running metres per game that have really set the competition alight. Seemingly plays with great control bringing his forwards onto the ball, before picking his moments perfectly to unleash his blistering pace off the mark. With Origin played at such a frantic pace there's sure to be opportunities for Cook to tear Queensland's middles to shreds in this contest.
The man with the biggest boots to fill in the Origin arena this year is undoubtedly McCullough. Following the announcement of former captain and Origin great Cameron Smith's rep retirement, the Broncos rake was quickly identified as the contender with the most similar qualities. Whilst there's no replacing a player like Smith, McCullough does play with great control out of dummy half and has the ability to kick to corners and turn the opposition around. The most important message will be for McCullough not to try and play too much like Smith despite the comparisons and just play his natural game. Make his tackles, give good service and kick long when the opportunity arises.
FRONT ROW: REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD v DYLAN NAPA
A case of quality over quantity as bruising battle between two firebrands looms.
Set to make his Origin debut after playing a vital role for Australia throughout the World Cup last year, Campbell-Gillard is the player set to light the fuse in this year's series. Has already publicly stated he's looking forward to getting out there and having some fun with Queensland's forwards. Doesn't rack up big numbers, but makes up for that with the quality of his work. Often leads the line-speed in defence, loves a one on one physical battle and when he decides to wind up with the ball in hand, can leave defenders skittled in his wake.
After debuting in the corresponding clash last year, Napa quickly learned a valuable Origin lesson about not gassing himself too early to emerge as a real pack leader for the Maroons throughout the remainder of the series. The Roosters firebrand has had a quiet start to the season by his standards but is the typical prototype Queenslander that can pull on the Maroons jersey and lift to another level. Napa will be looking for a strong opening stint to help his team win the yardage battle. Should be ready to unleash a strong physical performance and don't be surprised to see a duel with Campbell-Gillard emerge across the series.
SECOND ROW: BOYD CORDNER v FELISE KAUFUSI
Young Maroons forward faced with big task of meeting Blues skipper head-on.
After having his place in the team publicly questioned in the weeks leading up to selection, Cordner will be looking for a big game when he pulls on the sky blue on Wednesday night. Was an inspiration in his first series as Captain last year playing every minute of the Blues heartbreaking series loss. With 11 debutantes in the team he will need to lift another gear again this year. Always renowned as a player that runs good lines in attack, Cordner only has the one try this season, but look for him to enjoy playing outside his old mate Maloney again to cause some damage on QLD's right edge.
After enjoying a breakout season with the Storm last year, Kaufusi's success was swiftly rewarded with selection in Australia's World Cup squad. Got very little game time in the tournament, but his experience around that playing group will prove invaluable come his Origin debut on Wednesday night. Big and strong out on his right edge and possesses a handy offload that can break a game open. Like Cordner, runs good lines in attack and look for him to form a strong combination hitting holes off Ben Hunt targeting James Maloney and NSW's left edge defence.
SECOND ROW: TYSON FRIZELL v GAVIN COOPER
Hard running tearaway up against solid hole runner.
With 5 previous Origins under his belt either playing on the left or in the middle, Frizell will run-on in his more favoured right edge back-row position where he could be set to explode. Has been in outstanding form for the Dragons this year playing with great physicality. Hits hard in defence and arguably even harder with the ball in hand. Will be punching holes in the Maroons defence all night and don't be surprised to hear his name spoken about in man of the match discussions come the final whistle.
As honest as they come, Cooper has toiled away for years including a solid contribution for the Maroons last year. Has made a living largely on hitting holes off his great mate Johnathan Thurston who of course won't be there this year. Will be looking to form a similar combination on the left edge with Cameron Munster and will need to be at his very best in defence in order to tame his opposite man.
LOCK FORWARD: JACK DE BELIN v JOSH McGUIRE
Tough hombres looking for big impact despite injury concerns.
After serving as 18th man for the Blues throughout last year's series, the look in De Belin's eyes after full-time in game 3 was evident. It was a pure look of intent that he needed to do something about the Blues lack of success in recent years. On Wednesday night he gets his crack and will be looking to make a big impact. Well renowned for having one of the best tackle techniques in the game, the Dragons Lock will be looking to cut Queensland defenders in half in the opening exchanges. Another hard runner of the football and his passing both before and through the line have been developing nicely in the opening half of the year. Has been playing through the pain of a painful hip pointer injury in recent weeks that will be sure to be tested by the Maroons, but as the NSW motto this year goes, he'll just need to ‘do whatever it takes'.
Also coming into this game with an injury cloud, McGuire has been shown a great deal of faith by Coach Walters after selecting him despite not lacing a boot for the past 5 weeks. Returning from an ankle injury on the biggest arena in the game won't faze the Maroons Lock though who plays the game as tough as anyone and will be sure to work himself to a standstill. Turned the series on its head last year making the break that lead to the Maroons second half try in game 2 to Dane Gagai that swung the momentum of the series.
Vaughan, Trbojevic, Peachey & Crichton vs. Papali'i, Morgan, Hess & Arrow
The Blues have picked a versatile bench that covers every position, but more importantly one that will make a big impact. Paul Vaughan gets a well-deserved opportunity and will be charging through the middle. Jake Trbojevic is considered by many as unlucky not to be starting, but NSW went to another level when he came on last year and they'll be looking for a similar impact with his ball playing through the middle sure to test a tiring Maroons defence. Angus Crichton is a young tearaway who could cause plenty of damage when entering the fray and Tyrone Peachey is just a rare player with the ability to impact a game from any position.
The Maroons have opted for a fairly mobile bench with no specialist front-rower selected. The experienced Josh Papalii has played that rock solid role through the middle in the past and will again. Coen Hess will cover the back-row and Michael Morgan will play his normal Morgan bench role covering all positions, but most likely just playing a roving role. The big impact could come from debutante Jai Arrow who's taken his game to a new level this year. A tough old school forward who will come on and punch holes through the middle, Arrow will also have a big target on Blues ball carriers in defence.