State Of Origin Game 1

Picture: Darren England/news.com.au
Paul Gallen will start in the front row for the Blues. Picture: Darren England/news.com.au
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New South Wales  begins its quest for a first State of Origin series win since 2005 against Queensland in game one of the 2013 spectacle at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night. Although the Maroons have won seven consecutive series, New South Wales has won two of the three series openers at the ground during that period.

In charge at this level for the first time this year, Laurie Daley has named four debutants for Wednesday night’s blockbuster with Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and Josh Reynolds set to play at the top level for the first time, with the latter replacing injured utility Kurt Gidley on the bench. They join a relatively inexperienced playing group that boasts just four players that have lined up in ten or more Origin matches and just one that has won a series in the past.

Mal Meninga has kept faith in the team that has fared so well in recent years, with Chris McQueen the only new face in the 17 man playing group. He is one of four backrowers named on the bench alongside Corey Parker, Matt Gillett and Ben Te’o but there have been suggestions that one of them could be promoted to the starting thirteen. That move would see David Shillington start on the pine and Sam Thaiday or Nate Myles shift to the front row. With incumbent prop Ben Hannant unavailable through injury, the Maroons have a task juggling their forwards stocks.

The Blues are confident that Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis will be fit to play despite the fact that they haven’t played for the Sharks since round eight and nine respectively, while Queensland continues to wait on Darius Boyd after he injured his ankle playing for the Knights last month.

1st Tryscorer

Blake Ferguson  wouldn’t have even been in contention for a Blues jersey at the start of the season but his blistering form for the Raiders sees him lining up on wing on Wednesday night. He has six tries from his past four NRL matches and will keep Queensland’s outside backs on their toes.

It is hard to look past Maroons centre Greg Inglis  when it comes to tryscorers in State of Origin. The Souths custodian has scored more four pointers than anyone else at this level with 14 tries from 18 appearances since making his debut in 2006.

Prediction

Home ground advantage in the first game of the year is a huge advantage for New South Wales, who have won the past two matches at ANZ Stadium and eight of thirteen in the past ten years but have lost game one in each of the past four seasons. With captain Paul Gallen in the front row and three other props in the squad, it is fairly obvious that the Blues will try to outmuscle their opponents up the middle and Mal Meninga will hope to get big minutes out of Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles up front.

Queensland has a distinct advantage in the backs however with the likes of Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston pulling the strings. Their battle with Roosters halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce could go a long way to deciding the match, although playing in front of a sellout home crowd will be a big boost for the Blues. New South Wales by 4

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