It’s the NRL All Stars game this weekend as the curtain is lifted on the 2020 NRL season – we take a look at the line-ups, team news and a key match up to watch out for.
Following on from the NRL Nines last weekend, this Saturday (9.10am GMT), the Indigenous All Stars take on the Maori All Stars, as anticipation builds for the new NRL season.
Last year, the Maori side just could not cope with the electric pace of the Indigenous All Stars backline as they went on to score seven tries in a dominant 34-14 win. However, the Maori All Stars now have David Kidwell as coach who has already let it be known that his side will not go quietly into the night as before.
Once again, the Indigenous side is topped to brim with pace in the backline, with Josh Addo Carr looking to follow on from his brace of tries in last year’s game and unleash that dangerous speed he has become so well known for.
When you add this with the likes of Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts and Blake Ferguson it makes for a devastating backline and one that will be looking to cross the try line regularly. Also, with the halfback duo of Jack Wighton and Tyrone Roberts backing this quartet up it all adds up to some mesmerising and free flowing attacking rugby.
As for the Maori team, their forward pack has the size and ability to make life difficult for their opponents and keep that offensive juggernaut quiet.
The likes of the Bromwich brothers, Briton Nikora, Corey Harawira-Naera, Adam Blair and Kevin Proctor showcase a great combination of experience, youth, size and speed and can easily wear down the devastating indigenous backline and allow their own attacking players such as Kalyn Ponga, Esan Marsters, Bryson Goodwin and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to do the damage.
There is no doubt at all that the game itself is set to be filled with energetic and high-octane rugby whilst giving us a true sense of intensity and passion from both these cultures right from the start. In the end it makes it a spectacle you do not want to miss anytime soon.
Indigenous All Stars
Latrell Mitchell, Blake Ferguson, James Roberts, Jesse Ramien, Josh Addo-Carr, Jack Wighton, Tyrone Roberts, Josh Kerr, Nathan Peats, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Joel Thompson, Wade Graham, David Fifita, Connor Watson, Chris Smith, Zac Saddler, Josh Curran, Alex Johnston, Tyrone Peachey, Tyrell Fuimaono.
Coach Laurie Daley has had to deal with plenty of injuries to his initial squad with Andrew Fifita, Cody Walker, Ryan James and Adam Elliot all out due to injury or fitness problems. It leaves some concern in the forwards with Daley having to call up rookies Zac Saddler, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown alongside Canterbury Loose Forward Chris Smith. The late addition of the Dragons’ Tyrell Fuimaono does add some versatility as he is able to play in the back row or centre.
Maori All Stars
Kalyn Ponga, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Esan Marsters, Dylan Walker, Bryson Goodwin, Kodi Nikorima, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich, Brandon Smith, Jordan Riki, Kenneath Bromwich, Briton Nikora, Corey Harawira-Naera, Issac Luke, Brad Takairangi, Zane Tetevano, Adam Blair, Kevin Proctor, Malakai Watene Zelezniak, Pasami Saulo.
No Benji Marshall for the Maori All Stars who opted to make himself unavailable for selection. The loss of winger Bailey Simonsson means that the Rabbitohs’ Bryson Goodwin has been called up. Both Broncos forward Jordan Riki and Knights’ Pasami Saulo are drafted in after star duo James Tamou and Nelson Asofa-Solomona withdrew from the squad.
There does not look to be a match up more enticing than the one between both sides fullbacks as Latrell Mitchell goes up against Kalyn Ponga in a mouth-watering clash. Both players have gathered a strong reputation as two of the best players in the league over the last two years with their offensive skillset both completely different yet just as lethal and effective.
The number one spot is a position that Ponga has made his own is recent seasons but for Mitchell it will be a new role that he is looking to embrace with both the Indigenous team and South Sydney Rabbitohs after making the switch from centre. However, from what we have seen of the former Sydney Rooster he certainly has the talent and adaptability to make his presence felt at the position just like Greg Inglis was able to do.