PREVIEW: New South Wales Vs Queensland, State of Origin 1, 2013
Quite remarkably, NSW look like starting favourites for this clash.
It's remarkable if only because Queensland will be gunning for their eighth-consecutive series victory. And they boast five players who will lay serious claims to joining the exclusive Immortals club in retirement.
One of them, South Sydney's Greg Inglis, is the game's most in-form strike weapon.
Inglis has barged, blasted and sprinted his way to the top of the Dally M rankings this season - and, along with Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, will spearhead the Maroons attack.
- New South Wales v Queensland at ANZ Stadium Wednesday, 10.00pm (NZ time)
- Head to Head: NSW 43 Queensland 51 Drawn 2
- Last clash: Game 3, 2012. Queensland 21 bt NSW 20 at Suncorp Stadium
- VIDEO LIVE UPDATES: NSW Vs Queensland, Game 1, State of Origin 2013
Thurston, virus and the impending birth of his first child notwithstanding, will also break Gary Larson's record of 25 consecutive Origins.
NSW, under rookie coach Laurie Daley, have a renewed confidence that this year will be the one when it all turns around after going so close last year.
Aside from the withdrawal of utility Kurt Gidley, the Blues' preparations have been seamless. But they are relying on James Maloney to become the first debutant five-eighth to lead the Blues to victory in Origin history.
Queensland have chosen to back away from one of the key parts of their recent dominance, choosing just two specialist props and stacking the bench with mobile back-rowers.
This will force starting back-rowers Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday up front for parts of the game, but is seen as a way of combating the greasy ANZ Stadium surface.
Key: Cameron Smith. Rugby league's No.1 big game player, Smith is central to everything Queensland does. Whether it's getting their forwards rolling, his dummy-half kicking or the statesman-like attitude he takes into discussions with the referees, Smith rarely puts a foot wrong. If NSW are to win, they'll need Robbie Farah to shade the Queensland and Australian skipper.
- Tip: Queensland
NSW: Jarryd Hayne, Blake Ferguson, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Brett Morris, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, James Tamou, Robbie Farah, Paul Gallen (capt), Luke Lewis, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird. Int: Anthony Watmough, Trent Merrin, Andrew Fifita, Josh Reynolds.
Queensland: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), David Shillington, Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Ashley Harrison. Int: Corey Parker, Matt Gillett, Ben Te'o, Chris McQueen.