State of Origin – head to head

It will be very much a tried and tested Queensland side that will try and complete a fourth straight series win against their bitter rivals from New South Wales.

But as is often the case with State of Origin, Maroons fans would be wise to expect the unexpected against a new-look Blues side.

Craig Bellamy has picked his side very much on form, while Mal Meninga has stuck very much with the core of the team that picked up series wins in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Billy Slater deserves his spot ahead of Karmichael Hunt and despite his awesome talent several flaws have appeared in his game over the last year – especially in big games.

The established Inglis-Hodges centre combination stays put meaning the prodigiously talented Israel Folau takes his place on the wing.

Scott Prince can consider himself unlucky to lose out to Johnathan Thurston although the North Queensland pivot’s half-back partnership with Darren Lockyer has proved a winning combination for the Maroons in the past.

In the forwards there are very few surprises with Cameron Smith, Steve Price, and Petero Civoniceva all retaining their spots.

Titans bruiser Ashley Harrison could give the Maroons pack a new edge, while a strong interchange bench includes ball-playing forward Ben Hannant as well as the aggressive Nate Myles and the evergreen Michael Crocker.

For the Blues, Kurt Gidley, who has been enjoying fantastic form for the Knights captains the side from full back while back-to-form Jarryd Hayne and Newcastle winger James McManus take up the wing spots.

Jamie Lyon will prove a thorn in the side for Queensland in the centres, with the electric Michael Jennings who has established himself as a genuine speedster for Penrith.

While Jennings’ attacking flair is unquestionable, doubts still remain about his defensive capabilities and he will have his hands full against Inglis and Hodges.

Wallace and Campese have proved themselves for Brisbane and Canberra respectivley so far this year, although they will need plenty of ball to get one over on their Queensland counterparts.

Brent Kite and Luke Bailey provide genuine ball-running ability and the versatile Robbie Farah will take the fight to the Maroons around the ruck.

Some say Michael Ennis was first pick but Farah’s form for the Tigers this year has been unquestionable.

In the second row, Ben Creagh will provide another ball-playing option while the back-row combination of Luke O’Donnell and Paul Gallen will give a blend of aggression and flair.

Craig Wing has battled his way to a place on the interchange bench and will provide a genuine kicking option while the Dragons duo of Justin Poore and Michael Weyman deserve their chance on form alone.

Meanwhile, Penrith utility Luke Lewis will be keen to make a mark after being promoted to the squad following the suspension of Manly’s Glenn Stewart.

Queensland

Billy Slater
Darius Boyd
Greg Inglis
Justin Hodges
Israel Folau
Darren Lockyer (capt)
Johnathan Thurston
Steve Price
Cameron Smith
Petero Civoniceva
Ashley Harrison
Sam Thaiday
Dallas Johnson

Interchange:
Karmichael Hunt
Ben Hannant
Nate Myles
Michael Crocker

New South Wales

Kurt Gidley (capt)
Jarryd Hayne
Jamie Lyon
Michael Jennings
James McManus
Terry Campese
Peter Wallace
Brent Kite
Robbie Farah
Luke Bailey
Ben Creagh
Luke O’Donnell
Paul Gallen

Interchange:
Craig Wing
Justin Poore
Luke Lewis
Michael Weyman

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