HOW THE BLUES STACK UP FOR THE 2015 STATE OF ORIGIN OPENER
Fullback – Josh Dugan
Age: 27 Origins: 5
In stellar form over the last few weeks, his robust kick returns, line-breaking abilities and sound defence will be needed as he fills the big shoes of the departed Jarryd Hayne.
Wing – Daniel Tupou
Age: 23 Origins: 3
Has rebounded to form over the last fortnight. The lanky Tupou provides good go-forward from his carries and has great ability leaping for the high ball.
Centre – Josh Morris
Age: 28 Origins: 10
Did a great job defending on Greg Inglis last year and can expect a lot of traffic to come his way again. Missed one game through a knee injury last year but was one of the Blues’ best.
Centre – Michael Jennings
Age: 27 Origins: 12
His combination with Roosters and Blues teammate Daniel Tupou is starting to hits its straps. One of the fastest, most elusive ball-runners in the NRL.
Wing – Will Hopoate
Age: 23 Origin: 2
A robust defender and selected as a big, reliable performer on the right edge. He hasn’t been in the best form for Parramatta and will need to lift.
Five-eighth – Mitchell Pearce
Age: 26 Origins 12
Has plenty to prove. Dropped for last year’s series but gets the nod ahead of out-of-form Josh Reynolds. His kicking game this year has been outstanding and his willingness to take on the line will be valued.
Halfback – Trent Hodkinson
Age: 26 Origins 3
Scored the try that clinched the series for the Blues in Game II last year and is considered a big game player but he has been very quiet this season. Blues will have a potent kicking game with him and Pearce in the line up.
Prop – Aaron Woods
Age: 24 Origins: 5
Has been huge for Wests Tigers in the opening rounds of the NRL season, regularly running for over 200 metres. Has a big motor and can play plenty of minutes, which will be valuable in the absence of Paul Gallen.
Hooker – Robbie Farah (capt)
Age: 31 Origins: 11
Wears the captain’s armband in place of the injured Paul Gallen. One of the side’s most experienced campaigners and the Blues will look to him to provide direction out of dummy half.
Prop – James Tamou
Age: 26 Origins: 8
A big body who can create plenty of go-forward. He started the year slowly because of a neck injury but comes into Origin following much-improved form in the past month.
Second row – Beau Scott
Age: 31 Origins: 8
Tough and steady, he will be the team’s enforcer in the absence of Paul Gallen and Greg Bird. Look for him to go after Johnathan Thurston.
Second row – Ryan Hoffman
Age: 31 Origins: 11
Co-winner of NSW’s best player medal last year with Jarryd Hayne. An experienced head with a great defensive work ethic who gives confidence to teammates around him.
Lock – Josh Jackson
Age: 24 Origins: Debut
One of two debutants in the NSW side but he has already played plenty of big games and represented Australia. A good worker and coach Laurie Daley sees a big future for him.
Age: 25 Origins: 10
One of the NRL’s best workers. Coming off the bench but can play big minutes. Can also create second-phase play and Queensland will need to shut down his offload.
Age: 22 Origins 2
Big, tough, reliable – the kind of player who thrives in Origin. Also has a great club combination with Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou.
Age: Origins: Debut
Like Bulldogs teammate Jackson, is making his debut, but has played in Tests and grand finals. Can sometimes suffer from white line fever but will offer plenty of size and aggression.
Age: 25 Origins: 3
Dropped last year but back after a barnstorming opening to the season. One of the NRL’s most powerful runners and scored one of the best individual tries of the year against the Warriors recently.