Queensland and New South Wales have unveiled their much talked about squads for the second State of Origin clash in Sydney on June 18.
Needing to secure their first series-saving game two victory in Sydney since 1987 to keep their eight-year winning streak alive, the Maroons have named an extended 22-man squad as several of their stars race the clock to be fit for the must-win encounter.
Halfback Cooper Cronk, who broke his arm in the early stages of the series opener, is Queensland’s only omission from game one, while experienced rep campaigners Sam Thaiday, Jacob Lillyman and Willie Tonga, and uncapped trio Will Chambers, Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford were named to join the remaining 16 players. Josh Papalii has been forced to withdraw, however, after injuring his ankle during Canberra’s Monday night loss to Brisbane.
The recalled Tonga, who last played Origin in 2011, was the major selection shock. He will battle it out with Chambers for the left centre spot if Greg Inglis (ankle) or Billy Slater (shoulder) are unable to recover from their injuries in time. If Inglis and Slater are both ruled out, winger Darius Boyd is likely to move to fullback, with either Tonga or Chambers slotting in on the flank.
Milford is also a possible fullback option, but is more likely to be considered in a bench utility role – which Hunt is also in the running for. Hunt will get a No.7 call-up if Daly Cherry-Evans succumbs to his knee injury.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga may opt to go with four forwards on the bench, but if he names an interchange utility, Lillyman will be attempting to oust Chris McQueen – who will be bumped out of the starting side by Thaiday – or Ben Te’o from the final 17.
QUEENSLAND SQUAD (in alphabetical order – final line-up TBA): Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Bret Tate, Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cherry-Evans, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (c), Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Chris McQueen, Corey Parker, Ben Te’o, Matt Gillett, Aidan Guerra, Ben Hunt, Willie Tonga, Jacob Lillyman, Anthony Milford (four to be excluded).
Despite a somewhat smoother path to selecting a game two squad, the Blues – on the cusp of their first series triumph since 2005 – have made three changes to the side that prevailed 12-8 in Brisbane.
Plenty of conjecture has surrounded the replacing of injured right-side three-quarters Brett and Josh Morris, but Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate have beaten out a host of contenders, named at centre and wing respectively.
Dugan had not played an NRL game in the centres prior to last Monday night, but a three-try effort for St George Illawarra against Cronulla was enough to convince Laurie Daley he is up to the task at Origin level. Hopoate snared the wing spot ahead of Josh Mansour, James McManus, Jorge Taufua and Pat Richards, capping a phenomenal return to the code after embarking on a two-year Mormon mission. In-form South Sydney centre Dylan Walker was not considered after suffering a fractured thumb in a man-of-the-match performance against the Warriors.
Daley has indicated he may start the match with Beau Scott or Luke Lewis in the centres for the opening exchanges, before bringing Dugan or Hopoate into the contest off the bench.
As expected, Greg Bird has come straight into NSW’s starting pack after missing game one through suspension. Bird has been named at lock, with captain Paul Gallen moving up into the front-row. In something of a surprise, Aaron Woods has retained his starting prop spot and Test bookend James Tamou has dropped back to the bench.
Tony Williams is the unlucky player omitted from the Blues’ game one interchange contingent.
- Jarryd Hayne
- Will Hopoate
- Josh Dugan
- Michael Jennings
- Daniel Tupou
- Josh Reynolds
- Trent Hodkinson
- Aaron Woods
- Robbie Farah
- Paul Gallen (c)
- Ryan Hoffman
- Beau Scott
- Greg Bird
- James Tamou
- Anthony Watmough
- Luke Lewis
- Trent Merrin
State of Origin II, New South Wales v Queensland – Wednesday June 18, 8.05pm at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.
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