Kalyn Ponga (centre) takes on Jai Arrow and Ben Hunt at training.
Kalyn Ponga (centre) takes on Jai Arrow and Ben Hunt at training. DARREN ENGLAND

Origin match-ups to make difference

WITH the Maroons needing to win Origin II to keep the series alive, rugby league analysts Matthew Elkerton and Matthew McInerney examine the key match-ups.

 

Matt Prior chats with Blues teammate Paul Vaughan at training.
Matt Prior chats with Blues teammate Paul Vaughan at training.

THE NEW 'KIDS'

Matt Prior (NSW) v Kalyn Ponga (QLD)

Elkerton: With potential season-ending injuries on both sides of the border forcing personnel changes, the two states could not have gone in more opposite directions.

While Queensland have looked to the future with the selection of the livewire Ponga, Blues coach Brad Fittler has opted for the experienced Prior.

A non-existent selection for many fans, the workhorse prop will make his Origin debut at 31 years of age.

Fittler is counting on Prior's big-game experience and he will need all of it against the Maroons.

McInerney: Among the most exciting prospects in the NRL, Ponga gets his chance to perform on the grandest stage, but his success will depend on how he is used.

Electrifying speed, safe hands, vision and a lethal step make Ponga a fantastic fullback, but he may have to convert his 80-minute efforts into a single, game-breaking moment if the gamble is to work.

 

Billy Slater gets a stretch before training. (Adam Head)
Billy Slater gets a stretch before training. (Adam Head)

THE CUSTODIANS

James Tedesco (NSW) v Billy Slater (QLD)

Elkerton: The man affectionately known as Teddy was far from soft in Origin I.

Tedesco was at his barnstorming best, leading the Blues to victory with 17 tackle breaks and more than 200 running metres.

He was electric for the 'Baby Blues' and will need to be on song again if they are to seal the deal.

McInerney: A Queensland loss could see the curtain drawn on Slater's Origin career.

Slater must get his defence spot-on or he risks being blown away by Tedesco. Michael Morgan, the Game I custodian, didn't make his hits stick, and that led directly to NSW tries. With the series on the line, Slater can't afford any mistakes.

 

James Roberts enjoys a laugh at training. Picture: Brett Costello
James Roberts enjoys a laugh at training. Picture: Brett Costello

CENTRES OF ATTENTION

Latrell Mitchell/James Roberts v Greg Inglis/Will Chambers

Elkerton: While they might have had all eyes and little faith on them in the first game, the dynamic duo of Mitchell and Roberts more than passed the test in game one in both defence and attack.

Mitchell had more opportunities than Roberts but don't expect it to be that way forever.

Jimmy the Jet can blast open the game, if only he could find open space around the best defensive centre in the game.

McInerney: Inglis and Chambers had very different experiences in game one.

Inglis shone, pulling off some monster hits and making metres with the ball.

Chambers however was upstaged by Mitchell. Both men need to step it up, and the only way that happens is if they get more early ball from the halves.

 

Jack De Belin will be NSW’s enforcer. Picture: Brett Costello
Jack De Belin will be NSW’s enforcer. Picture: Brett Costello

LOCK AND KEYS

Jack DeBelin (NSW) v Josh McGuire (QLD)

Elkerton: If there was one area where Queensland had an advantage over the Blues in game one, it was their physicality.

But that won't be the case at ANZ Stadium if NSW lock DeBelin has any say in it.

While he was was relatively quiet in Melbourne, expect DeBelin to rise an extra gear in his second Origin match.

He has been the form back-rower of the comp and hits as hard as any player in the game.

If he can get a hold of his nerves with a few early clean shots, then he will go a long way to 'locking' up the State of Origin trophy for NSW.

McInerney: The no-nonsense Bronco has never taken a backward step at Origin but McGuire and his fellow forwards have to find a way past the advantage line.

They failed to lay any sort of platform in Origin I. I expect McGuire to shift to the front row at some stage to make way for a workhorse like Jai Arrow, who never shies away from tough work.


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