Queensland coach Billy Slater has introduced Jai Arrow and Murray Taulagi into the Maroons side for Game II.
Queensland will be heading to Perth confident they can come home with the series locked up after a 16-10 win in Sydney but two huge injuries have thrown a spanner into the works.
Cowboys young gun Reuben Cotter suffered a Grade 2 hamstring injury prior during warmup in Round 15, while Xavier Coates syndesmosis injury will keep him sidelined for the remainder of Origin.
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Cotter’s performance in the series opener was one of the best debut’s in Origin history and his 80 minutes in the middle of the park will be sorely missed in Slater’s side.
But Arrow and Taulagi will be hoping to pick up the slack.
Jai Arrow will replace Cotter in the forward pack, completing a stunning comeback to the Origin arena after breaching Covid restrictions in 2021 and receiving a two-match ban and a $35,000 fine.
Queensland powerbrokers and Slater had a sit down dinner with the Rabbitohs gun who showed immense remorse for his actions.
Lindsay Collins will shift into the starting side at prop, moving Tino Fa’asuamaleaui to lock, with Arrow starting on the bench.
“Jai Arrow will be a part of the 17 this camp and he had a group attitude in camp one, obviously played nine games for Queensland already, he is very experienced in this arena and we have got a luxury there of bring him in to replace Reuben,” Slater said.
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Meanwhile, Taulagi has been rewarded for a strong start to the season with the Cowboys who sit in third place on the competition ladder.
“He has certainly earned his opportunity, he was a part of our 22 in camp one and those guys weren’t here for an experience or a holiday, they were here because they were next in line,” Slater said.
“Murray was the first guy that I thought of when Xavier went down, obviously the other guy was Hamiso (Tabuai-Fidow), he’s out with a head injury so he isn’t going to be able to be a part of this week.
“But he has certainly earned his opportunity and was really close to playing in Game I to be honest.”
Slater was asked if the Cowboys combination was an influence in his decision to pick Taulagi and the rookie coach explained his decision was solely made on the young gun’s performances.
“It helps, it helps that Murray plays alongside Val (Holmes) every week, but that isn’t why he is in the team,” Slater said.
“He is in the team because of his own actions and what he brings to the footy team, so it just so happens that he will play alongside Valentine.”
Meanwhile, Broncos veteran Corey Oates has been drafted into the squad and Slater couldn’t speak more highly of the eight game Maroons representative.
“Corey has been playing great footy this year, he has played for Queensland before and to be honest I don’t know if I have seen Corey play any better than what he has played this year,” Slater said.
“Again he has earned his place in the 22 and we are a 22 man squad, yes 17 will take the field on Sunday night be we are a 2022 man squad, everyone contributes like they did in Game I and who knows what is around the corner.”
Young gun Reece Walsh has also been included in the Queensland squad and is unlikely to play.
Slater said that the Warriors gun’s improvement this year has been clear and as such as awarded a spot on the extended bench.
“Reece is here for his own actions, he deserves to be here, he was here last year,” Slater said.
“Unfortunately strained his hamstring in the captain’s run so missed his opportunity to play for Queensland.
“But I have been really impressed with some of the developments of Reece’s game throughout this season and looking forward to having him.”
Queensland team for Game II:
1. Kalyn Ponga – Newcastle Knights
2. Selwyn Cobbo – Brisbane Broncos
3. Valentine Holmes – North Queensland Cowboys
4. Dane Gagai-Newcastle Knight
5. Murray Taulagi – North Queensland Cowboys
6. Cameron Munster – Melbourne Storm
7. Daly Cherry-Evans – Manly Sea Eagles
8. Lindsay Collins – Sydney Roosters
9. Ben Hunt – St George Illawarra Dragons
10. Josh Papalii – Canberra Raiders
11. Kurt Capewell – Brisbane Broncos
12. Felise Kaufusi – Melbourne Storm
13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui – Gold Coast Titans
14. Harry Grant – Melbourne Storm
15. Jai Arrow – South Sydney Rabbitohs
16. Patrick Carrigan – Brisbane Broncos
17. Jeremiah Nanai – North Queensland Cowboys
18. Tom Dearden – North Queensland Cowboys
19. Thomas Flegler – Brisbane Broncos
20. Beau Fermor – Gold Coast Titans
21. Corey Oates – Brisbane Broncos
22. Reece Walsh – Warriors
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