Benji Marshall will captain the NRL All Stars for the 2nd time in 2013. Source: Adam Head/foxsports.com.au
The 2013 NRL season unofficially begins at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night when the NRL All Stars and Indigenous All Stars lock horns in the fourth annual Rugby League All Stars match. Since suffering a 16-12 defeat in the inaugural fixture on the Gold Coast three years ago, the NRL All Stars have dominated and will be bidding for their third straight success in Brisbane, which is staging the match for the first time.
Australian Test stars Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater have withdrawn from the NRL All Stars squad as the Melbourne Storm prepare for the World Club Challenge against Super League champions Leeds in England on February 22 but coach Wayne Bennett will still send out a strong side. New Zealand skipper Benji Marshall will captain the team for a second year in a row at five-eighth alongside Rabbitohs youngster Adam Reynolds, who is one of several new faces. Cowboys enforcer James Tamou will line up in the match for the first time in front of a dangerous backline that contains the Morris brothers, Jarryd Hayne and Akuila Uate.
Jonathan Thurston will lead the Indigenous team out on to the field for the third successive year and will be determined to guide the side that he has represented in every renewal of the match to its first win since 2010. He is one of just six indigenous players lining up this year who have previously tasted success in the annual event, along with Scott Prince, George Rose, Travis Waddell, Joel Thompson and Greg Bird.
Both teams boast lethal backlines with plenty of players capable of pulling of a game breaking play that can turn a match on its head. 2012 Dally M medallist and leading tryscorer Ben Barba lines up for the Indigenous All Stars and will be pivotal to their attack, while the NRL All Stars will look to given Fijian flyer Akuila Uate as much space as possible on the right flank. As is often the case however, the match could be decided in the ‘engine room’ and the NRL All Stars appear to have a clear advantage in that department with the likes of Kangaroos stalwarts Cameron Smith, Ben Hannant and Dave Taylor packing down in their scrum.
After losing the inaugural All Stars match 16-12 at Skilled Park in 2010, the NRL All Stars scored a 28-12 win two years ago before overcoming a halftime deficit to triumph 36-28 twelve months ago.
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