Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
New South Wales go in to game two of the 2013 State of Origin Series in Brisbane one game up, and with the best opportunity yet to tie up a series in eight years.
As a result, game two shapes up as potentially the biggest Origin clash in recent memory, with both states naming strong teams.
But the build-up has not been without controversy, with Blues James Tamou and Blake Ferguson dropped from the team for off-field indiscretions, paving the way for the Tigers Aaron Woods and Nathan Merritt to come in to team.
Following the game one loss, the Maroons made a number of changes with forwards Dave Shillington and Ashley Harrison dropped from the side in favour of youth, in the form of Canberras Josh Papalii and the Rabbitohs Chris McQueen, whose Origin debut was impressive enough to earn him a starting spot.
Keys to Victory:
The mental aspect of this match could play heavily on the result. The Maroons will enjoy the clearest home ground advantage in Rugby League at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, and will no doubt be buoyed by the volume and support of a stadium full of Queenslanders. On the other side of the fence, for the Blues, blocking out the passion of the Queenslanders and focusing on the job at hand will go a long way to deciding the series.
Coming up short in Sydney will be a huge motivating factor for the Maroons Big Three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. All three enjoyed solid performances in the opening encounter, but were stifled by a Blues team intent on atoning for eight years of series losses. This time, it will be the the Big Three looking to atone, and with Smith, Cronk and Slater holding all the cards when it comes to getting the Maroons on the right foot, the Blues will have to be on their game.
Nathan Merritt vs Brent Tate:
While Nathan Merritt readys himself for his Origin debut, Brent Tate will line up for his 16th match. The seasoned campaigner is no stranger to big games, nor the try-line, having crossed for five Origin tries. But when it comes to crossing the stripe, they dont come much better than Nathan Merritt. The Rabbitohs veteran will be ready to prove his worth on the games biggest stage after waiting eleven years for a call-up. This opportunity is unlikely to go begging.
Greg Inglis vs Josh Morris:
Josh Morris may have superb speed and power, but Greg Inglis possesses all that and more, with the Rabbitoh terrorising opposition defences in 2013 with his kick returns from fullback. But Inglis finds himself in the centres again for Game II, where he could be starved of the football.
Chris McQueen vs Luke Lewis:
Chris McQueen comes in to the Maroons starting line-up in only his second Origin appearance, and the young Rabbitoh will be keen to repay the faith Mal Meninga has shown him. His opposite number for the Blues is cut of the same cloth, with both players able to cover a range of positions across the park. But while Lewis brings a wealth of experience, McQueen brings youth and exuberance.
Ben Teo vs Trent Merrin:
Both Teo and Merrin possess vital go-forward off the bench and will be vital cogs in both the Blues and Maroons arsenal as the starters begin to tire. The pair are equally matched across attack and defence, with only Merrins higher defensive workload in the NRL differentiating between the two.