PREVIEW: 2020 State of Origin Game One

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Queensland v New South Wales Wednesday 8:10pm at Adelaide Oval

Normally, we'd be gearing up for the Australian summer of cricket and a few Rugby League Tests, but luckily this year we are being thrust straight into three weeks of awesome Rugby League action, which features the three men's State of Origin matches and the women's State of Origin.

Not only is it the first time that the series has been played at the conclusion of the NRL season but Game One will be taken to the Adelaide Oval for the very first time.

New South Wales enter the series as back-to-back winners and will be aiming to become the first New South Wales side since 2005 to win three straight Origin titles. The Blues have named three debutants in their 17 for Game One which gives them an immediate advantage regarding experience over the eight debutants that the Queensland side will blood.

In terms of experience the Queensland halves have the wood over the New South Wales halves as both Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans have combined for 17 matches whilst the debutant Luke Keary and 22-year-old Nathan Cleary have just five games between them. Although, Keary is no stranger to big games with the 28-year-old five-eighth having won three premierships over the course of his career. This matchup between four of the top players in the game will be fascinating to watch as it unfolds over the course of the three games.

The New South Welshmen's three debutants include Clint Gutherson, Junior Paulo and the aforementioned Keary who join a very strong Blues side. The defending champions field four of the top five vote-getters from the Dally M Medal and boast a forward pack with a great mixture of experienced leaders and young stars. They're going to be a tough team to beat.

Although, you can never count out the Queenslanders who will be looking for revenge after losing last year's series in the dying stages of the third and final match. The new look Maroons side includes AJ Brimson, Xavier Coates, Brenko Lee, Phillip Sami, Jake Friend, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Lindsay Collins and Jaydn Su'A who will all be making their Origin debuts on Wednesday. Queensland have named a strong forward pack that has plenty of talent to match the NSW pack however, their struggles on paper seem to lie with their back five which includes four debutants who come up against a strong NSW back five including Dally M medallists James Tedesco and Jack Wighton.

Meanwhile the battle in the coaching box is going to be as interesting as it's been in a long time. Brad Fittler is hoping to become just the fourth coach to win three series in a row and the fifth coach to win three origin series. But standing in his way are two Queensland legends in coach Wayne Bennett and mentor Mal Meninga who have won a combined 14 Origin series as coaches.

Wayne Bennett is hoping to be the saviour for his home state as he was in the 2001 series which saw Bennett reclaim is old job as the Maroons coach and guided his side to an incredible 2-1 series victory, preventing the Blues from winning back-to-back series. Bennett will be hoping for much of the same this time around as he looks to prevent a New South Wales three peat. Bennett and the Queenslanders will embrace the underdog tag as they have done in the past and will not be an easy pushover for the defending champions.

Last meeting: Game III, 2019 - NSW 26 QLD 20

Who to watch: There are some great matchups in the Game One line-ups, some of these include the battle of the halves pairings, the forward packs and the two exciting fullbacks. But it's two of the prop forwards who come to mind, Queensland Josh Papalii and New South Wales debutant Junior Paulo. Papalii has had another monster season and was one of two props named in the Dally M Team of the Year. For the Raiders this season, Papalii averaged a massive 148 run metres per game whilst making 31 tackles per game. The most experienced Queenslander in the 17 with 15 Origin appearances had his best individual performance last year with career highs for both run metres and tackles in an Origin series.

Lining up against him is debutant Junior Paulo who once played with Papalii at the Raiders, now lines up against him in his biggest game of his career. Paulo had the best season of his career to date and was a key part to Parramatta's top four finish. 155 run metres, 26 tackles and 2.5 offloads per game highlight the skills that Paulo will bring to this New South Wales side. Paulo was the top offloader in the competition and will be sure to create plenty of second phase footy for Keary, Cleary, Cook and Tedesco to pounce on. Both Papalii and Paulo are key member of their respective forward packs and their performances will have a big influence on the result on Wednesday night.

The favourite: New South Wales enter the first game of the series as favourites and rightfully so. Winners of the 2018 & 2019 Origin series combined with the experience their side possess gives them the edge on paper over the untested Queensland side.  

My tip: I'm expecting this game to be a tight contest with that intangible Queensland spirit to be in full effect for the Maroons. However, New South Wales's experience could be enough to get them over the line and put themselves in a great position for the rest of the series. The battle between the forward packs and spine are going to be tight, but I think the outside backs for the Blues possess too much power for the Queensland backs to handle. New South Wales by 8.

1. Alexander Brimson 2. Xavier Coates 18. Kurt Capewell 4. Dane Gagai 5. Phillip Sami 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Christian Welch 9. Jake Friend 10. Josh Papali'i 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Coen Hess 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 14. Ben Hunt 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Jai Arrow 17. Jaydn Su'A

1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Clinton Gutherson 4. Jack Wighton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Luke Keary 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Damien Cook 10. Junior Paulo 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cody Walker 15. Payne Haas 16. Cameron Murray 17. Angus Crichton

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy;

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