With centre duo Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell running amok, and Origin debutants Jarome Luai and Brian To’o putting their stamp on the interstate contest in memorable fashion, the Blues were unstoppable in racking up a 50-6 win in game one.
The Blues were virtually unaffected by Queensland closing its borders to residents from Sydney’s COVID-19 hotspots and continued Origin camp in Kingscliff on the northern NSW.
The NSW squad headed north on Monday and was COVID tested before entering camp.
The team has already been to the Gold Coast, where they completed border declaration forms.
The Blues moved to Queensland on Friday leading into game two on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
The Maroons had a host of players unavailable or underdone in the series opener and have just as many headaches this time around with both forced and unforced changes in their squad and with a short build-up to try and get things right for game two.
Hooker and fullback have been their hardest-hit positions with Harry Grant (hamstring) joining Reed Mahoney and the retired Jake Friend on the unavailable list while Kalyn Ponga and AJ Brimson are both out of contention for the fullback spot.
Reece Walsh was handed a debut in the No.1 jersey after just seven NRL games but the youngster was forced to withdraw the day before the game after injuring his hamstring at training.
Maroons: A massive blow for Queensland with rookie fullback Reece Walsh ruled out after breaking down during the captain’s run on Saturday.
The QRL said in a statement that Walsh needed treatment for a low grade hamstring strain and had been ruled out.
Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo originally came into the team as winger but was withdrawn on Sunday morning due to doubt over his eligibility. Xavier Coates will start on the wing.
Titans forward Jai Arrow was treated in hospital with a course of intravenous antibiotics but returned to training on Thursday with his forearm strapped with a guard on it.
Prior to joining the Queensland Maroons camp, Arrow was receiving oral antibiotics to treat an infection. Team doctor Matt Hislop admitted Arrow to hospital to “get on top of it quickly”.
Andrew McCullough comes in at hooker for Grant with his Dragons teammate Ben Hunt also returning to the Maroons fold in Brimson’s place as the bench utility.
Josh Papalii (suspension) returns in the front row with Cowboys prop Francis Molo handed a debut on the interchange. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui shifts to lock, Jai Arrow to second row and David Fifita to the bench.
Blues: The Blues had a clean bill of health after the captain’s run on Saturday.
Tom Trbojevic returned to Blues training on Thursday having sat out a session earlier in the week. Trbojevic told NRL.com he missed the session due to player load as he had gone around on Sunday for Manly. He said it had nothing to do with trying to protect his hamstrings.
Former skipper Boyd Cordner was also on hand at Blues training on Thursday to help out with preparations for Sunday’s game.
With prop Jake Trbojevic ruled out by a hip injury, Storm lock Dale Finucane and Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton were added to a 20-man squad. Finucane was omitted on Saturday when the squad was cut to 19.
Junior Paulo takes Trbojevic’s place in the starting front row with Crichton named on the interchange and Finucane on the extended bench with Campbell Graham. Api Koroisau is once again 18th man.
Cam Murray remains in an edge role rather than returning to his preferred spot in the middle rotation while game one debutant Liam Martin, who impressed in his half-hour stint after being a late call-up, also holds his place in the 17.
Cameron Munster v Jarome Luai: The battle between the two No.6s should be compelling. Barely six months ago Munster produced one of Origin’s great individual performances as the Maroons completed an upset series win.
Just two weeks ago Luai produced one of Origin’s great debuts to help guide the Blues to their biggest-ever win.
The young Panther’s confidence and assuredness belied his experience while Munster looked off the pace after not having played for a month due to a foot injury. Expect Munster to be better in this one while Luai again won’t be taking any backward steps.
The Blues had the top four and six of the top seven players for run metres gained in game one, as well as the top four and seven of the top eight for tackle breaks. NSW backline players Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell, James Tedesco and Brian To’o were the top four players in both categories.