Andrew Fafita during the New South Wales captain's run.
Andrew Fafita during the New South Wales captain's run. DAVE HUNT

Key match-ups in State of Origin I

NEWS Regional's Matthew Elkerton (NSW) and Matthew McInerney (Queensland) face off over the main State of Origin Game 1 match-ups.

 

THE HOOKERS

Nathan Peats v Cameron Smith

Elkerton: Peats is a wildcard option for the Blues. He offers plenty in defence, averaging 38.4 tackles per game for the Titans, but will need to up his work rate out of dummy half to combat the master of Origin.

McInerney: Buderus, Farah, Ennis, Young. It is a short but sweet list of hookers living legend Smith has vanquished in his decade as Queensland's dummy-half. Peats is a quality player but nobody can compare to the master, who should reign in his 40th Origin.

 

THE FIVE-EIGHTHS

James Maloney v Anthony Milford

Elkerton: The naughtiest boy in league at the moment, Maloney will need to curb his behaviour with his penalty count now standing at 21, eight clear of the next highest. He gets a chance to link up with former partner-in-crime Mitch Pearce after winning a premiership together in 2013.

McInerney: The search for Queensland's next long-term halves combination begins with Milford's debut. The Broncos pivot will be under enormous pressure but, as he proved in the 2015 grand final, he can handle it. His explosiveness could be exactly what the Maroons need.

 

THE CENTRES

Josh Dugan/Jarryd Hayne v Will Chambers/Justin O'Neill

Elkerton: Titans coach Neil Henry has been setting Hayne for a run in the centres the past couple of weeks with reasonable success out wide. Dugan (pictured) is a risk due to injury but past efforts in sky blue warranted his selection. Both are potential Origin game-breakers.

McInerney: You can't beat specialist centres playing in their native position. Chambers and O'Neill already have that advantage over NSW, who opted for two fullbacks. Greg Inglis' absence is a huge loss but Chambers' (pictured) last start at centre was in Queensland's biggest Origin win.

 

FRONT-ROWERS

Aaron Woods/Andrew Fifita v Dylan Napa/Nate Myles

Elkerton: The NRL's bad boy, Fifita has been nothing short of inspirational for the Sharks. His offloading has been lethal and he has been a major metre-eater (2917m). Woods (pictured) is back on track after a disrupted start to the season due to contract issues and will be looking for a big game to disprove his critics.

McInerney: Myles' selection was a major shock. He hasn't been in great form but he has always delivered for Queensland. His experience will help debutant Napa adjust. If Napa (pictured) produces his best, it's going to be a very good night for the Maroons.

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