PREVIEW: 2024 Men's State of Origin II

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New South Wales v Queensland Wednesday 8:05pm at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne / Wurundjeri

Blues return to nomadic hunting ground to keep series alive

The NSW Blues return to their happy hunting ground of the MCG in a bid to keep the 2024 State of Origin series alive against the QLD Maroons.

NSW had a nightmare of an Origin opener. Joseph Suaalii's unfortunate but correct sending off saw NSW having to play 72 minutes a man short. Despite a brave effort including getting the match back to within two converted tries, the Maroons simply ran the NSW tank to empty and they would lose the game 34-10.

Michael Maguire has overhauled his side significantly for a tilt at reclaiming the series for the first time in three years. Dylan Edwards has successfully overcome an injury scare to reclaim his fullback jersey, Edwards has the ability to break the game open with one charge through the middle, with all respect to James Tedesco, Edwards ability to scheme around the ruck was sorely missed in Sydney.  Latrell Mitchell gets a recall replacing Suaalii, Mitch Moses replaces Nicho Hynes, Cam Murray replaces Cam McInnes at lock while Connor Watson debuts replacing Hudson Young. Maguire will need an improved performance from his forward pack with Payne Haas and Jake Trbojevic significantly limited in Sydney while Murray and Watson will deliver much needed leg speed around the ruck. Mitchell's impact on the edge will be breathtaking to watch and will be a significant point of difference for the Blues.

For QLD, Billy Slater's decision to select Selwyn Cobbo on the bench was an absolute masterstroke with Reece Walsh's brutal KO seeing Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow moving to the back and excelling, while Cobbo wreaked havoc on the new look right edge of the Blues. They will be without Cobbo this time as he is injured along with debutant J'maine Hopgood replaced by veterans Kurt Capewell and Felise Kaufusi respectively.

To win in Melbourne, you have a feeling that the pack will need to dominate early and maintain the rage. One area where QLD did fall short was matching the impact brought by Spencer Leniu off the bench for the Blues, they really fell down a peck or two when he came into the match. So expect Kaufusi to provide some starch in the middle with some monster shots to try and wrestle momentum away from the Blues. QLD have only one once at the MCG and that was against the odds in 1995. Out wide, they have the advantage with Walsh causing havoc out wide, and Tabuai-Fidow back at centre going up against Stephen Crichton will be entertainment plus.

Last meeting: Game I 2024 - NSW 10 Queensland 38 at Accor Stadium.

Player to watch: After controversially missing selection in Game 1. All eyes are on Latrell Mitchell. Since his return from suspension, Mitchell has been in great form for a revived South Sydney outfit. He has been on the ball and creative for the Rabbitohs and that quality was missing in NSW's attack in Game 1. When given a chance, Trell can be the best left centre in the competition so expect him to try and claim that mantle once more at the place he made his Origin debut, six years ago.

For QLD, the focus is going on Reece Walsh. Walsh was arguably one of the best players of last year's series and is definitely one of the more polarising players in the competition. Walsh has the creativity that some spine players dream of, but will again be targeted by the NSW side (as he should be, as one of QLD's most dangerous players). If Walsh can stay on the field and create panic amongst the Blues defence once more, then the series is as good as won for the Maroons.

Favourites: QLD are favourites for Origin 2. Fun fact, QLD are undefeated at Marvel Stadium, Docklands. But, as already mentioned the Maroons have struggled at the confides of the MCG.

My tip: Well, I feel the Blues can't have played any worse than they did in Game 1. A new look spine and kicking game gives the Blues an advantage, so I expect field position to be closer. The ruck speed QLD can limit will be important, because if the middle of NSW get the ascendency, with their bench and impact that was so good in Sydney, it might be a long night, plus the ever increasing threat of Edwards and Mitchell in the attacking third. NSW by 6.

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Brian To'o 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Latrell Mitchell 5. Zac Lomax 6. Jarome Luai 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Reece Robson 10. Payne Haas 11. Liam Martin 12. Angus Crichton 13. Cameron Murray 14. Connor Watson 15. Isaah Yeo 16. Haumole Olakau'atu 17. Spencer Leniu 18. Mitchell Barnett

1. Reece Walsh 2. Xavier Coates 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Reuben Cotter 9. Ben Hunt 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Jaydn Su’a 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Harry Grant 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 16. Felise Kaufusi 17. Kurt Capewell 18. Dane Gagai

Referees: Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials: Dave Munro, Chris Sutton; Video Referees: Grant Atkins;

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