Questions have been raised over NSW’s monster pack with Queensland captain Cameron Smith debating the wisdom of overlooking Blues veteran Luke Lewis for Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener.
And NSW mentor Laurie Daley admits he does not know what to expect from his giant debutant forwards in an ANZ Stadium atmosphere Smith has described as “intimidating”.
Either way, Smith has backed his veterans to run the Blues pack “off their feet” before unleashing Origin’s greatest point-scoring weapons.
The Maroons know exactly what is coming in Origin I in Sydney after the Blues named an all forwards bench weighing a whopping 43kg heavier than Queensland.
The Maroons (265 games total) boast a stunning 160 games’ more Origin experience than NSW (105), averaging almost 16 matches a player to the Blues’ six.
And NSW appeared to make up in sheer size what they lacked in experience – much to Smith’s curiosity.
“I think he (Daley) surprised everyone by leaving Luke Lewis out given his recent form for the Sharks,” Smith said of 10-year, 17-game Origin veteran Lewis.
“But Laurie has picked a strong side, particularly their bench.
“They are quite damaging ball runners – it’s a big ask for us.”
However, Smith backed his veteran side dubbed “Dad’s Army” by critics, to blunt the NSW threat in their quest to reclaim the Origin crown.
“We have got some pretty aggressive players in our side as well – I think that covers that,” he said.
“They picked four forwards on the bench and got a pretty big pack but I think we have got the personnel there to match their forwards.”
Daley admitted the jury would be out on how his rookie forwards David Klemmer and Josh Jackson would react until they were thrown into the cauldron for the first time on Wednesday night.
“It’s one of those things, you don’t really know,” Daley said.
“While they haven’t played Origins, they’ve played Test matches and grand finals – that’s an advantage.
“But Origin is a unique beast in itself, so they’re about to find out.”
Smith believed the bench would prove the difference – for Queensland.
He backed bench utility Michael Morgan to help spark a backline featuring Origin record-breaking point-scorers Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd.
Asked if they would run NSW off their feet, Smith said: “I think that is why we have gone with Michael Morgan as an option on the bench rather than another big guy.
“We believe we have a fair few points in our footy side.”
History agrees with Smith.
Thurston – set to play a record 31st straight Origin – is Origin’s leading point-scorer (174pts).
And Boyd and Inglis share Origin’s try-scoring mark with 15 each.
The entire NSW team combined has scored 11 tries.
Meanwhile, Smith backed Inglis (tonsillitis) and fellow star centre Justin Hodges (foot) – 33 on Monday – to shine in Origin I.