With New South Wales taking a deserved lead in the series, Origin will be played on a Sunday for the first time since 2001, this time with Sydney hosting proceedings.
The Blues will be wary that a series lead means little, based on last year's result. Then, they comfortably took game one and looked all but assured of taking the series at half-time during game two. A calamity of errors later and they suffered a defeat which they never recovered from. Brad Fittler will need to keep his team's head very much in check to ensure he comes away with a win in his first year as coach.
Queensland for the second year in a row will need to come from behind and this time will not have Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston or Cooper Cronk to call on. While Billy Slater returns for his 30th Origin match, Kevin Walters will need more from his pack if they will be able to contend with the Blues. They were outplayed through the middle by the improved Blues forwards, and couldn't contain their backs as a result when it mattered. There is a lot of work to do if they want to take the series to a third game.
2018 - New South Wales 22 def. Queensland 12 at Melbourne Cricket Ground
2017 – Queensland 22 def. New South Wales 6 at Suncorp Stadium
2017 – Queensland 18 def. New South Wales 16 at ANZ Stadium
2017 – New South Wales 28 def. Queensland 4 at Suncorp Stadium
The scoreline might not suggest it but NSW comfortably accounted for Queensland in game one and will look to do the same in Sydney. But as last year showed, they need to play 80 minutes of football, not 40.
Matt Prior makes his debut, replacing Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who suffered a broken jaw playing for the Panthers last week. Otherwise, the Blues team has a similar feel to game one.
Billy Slater becomes the second oldest player to play an Origin game at 36, replacing the injured Michael Morgan. Meanwhile, his replacement in waiting, the excitingly talented Kalyn Ponga will make his debut off the bench, replacing Anthony Milford.
|New South Wales Blues||Queensland Maroons|
|1||James Tedesco||Billy Slater|
|2||Tom Trbojevic||Valentine Holmes|
|3||Latrell Mitchell||Greg Inglis (c)|
|4||James Roberts||Will Chambers|
|5||Josh Addo-Carr||Dane Gagai|
|6||James Maloney||Cameron Munster|
|7||Nathan Cleary||Ben Hunt|
|8||David Klemmer||Dylan Napa|
|9||Damien Cook||Andrew McCullough|
|10||Matt Prior||Jarrod Wallace|
|11||Boyd Cordner (c)||Gavin Cooper|
|12||Tyson Frizell||Felise Kaufusi|
|13||Jack De Belin||Josh McGuire|
|14||Paul Vaughan||Kalyn Ponga|
|15||Jake Trbojevic ||Josh Papalii|
|16||Angus Crichton||Coen Hess|
|17||Tyrone Peachey||Jai Arrow|
|18||Tariq Sims||Tim Glasby|
|19||Luke Keary||Christian Welch|
The facts that matter
New South Wales
New team, new era. With a host of exciting debutants in the Blues side, they lived up to the hype and got Fittler's coaching debut off with a win.
Their forward pack out-worked Queensland in the previous game, with Damien Cook running rampant just as he done throughout the NRL season. If they can do the same in this one, they will allow their backs to run loose. With Josh Addo-Carr, James Roberts, Latrell Mitchell and game one man of the match James Tedesco able to show explosive power, it will only take an offload or decent second phase play to break open the game. However, they will need to tighten up defensively on the fringes where they found wanting earlier in game one.
The Panthers halves duo of James Maloney and Nathan Cleary showed a good understanding of each other in game one. Maloney's composure under pressure and superb kicking game make him a vital cog in the Blues side. His match-up against Cameron Munster will be key.
Queensland will need inspiration in their forwards if they will compete with NSW. Dylan Napa who is carrying an injury and Jarrod Wallace were well below their best. Their spine will really have to step up, make some metres, and just push the pressure back on the Blues forwards.
Only then can they turn to Ben Hunt, Munster and his Melbourne teammate Slater who will work outside him. Slater can break a game open by going through the line and is one of the few who can match the Blues backline for pace. Kalyn Ponga is a prodigious talent and depends on how he is used, could be precisely the sort of impact off the bench Walters will need.
Captain Greg Inglis was inspirational in the first game, leading from the front. However, he cannot have the responsibility all on his shoulders, and will need his teammates to back him up.
It sounds like de ja vu, but the Blues will be playing at home, are carrying all the momentum, and a stable side in form. If it all comes together, they should do more than enough to surpass Queensland. The Maroons don't seem to have enough in their pack to get past the Blues, and unless someone has a special performance, the Blues should get a series win at the end of this game. But watch out for a complacent Blues outfit and a resurgent Queensland one.
Tip: Blues by 8
Can the Blues win at ANZ Stadium and claim the series, or will the Maroons triumph and send us to a decider at Suncorp? Let us know in the comments and poll below.