Meninga set to unleash the Coal Train
Queensland coach Mal Meninga will unleash the Coal Train on Wednesday night, with 122kg forward Dave Taylor set to replace injured back-rower Sam Thaiday in the State of Origin clash in Sydney.
In a bold move by Meninga, which is sure to put the wind up the Blues after they bulked up their Origin pack with Penrith rookie Tim Grant and Manly firebrand Anthony Watmough, Taylor will provide some massive punch on the right edge.
Nate Myles will help out Petero Civoniceva and Matt Scott in the middle third.
“Big Dave’s starting on the right edge, it’s a simple as that,” declared Meninga when asked who would replace Thaiday after the Brisbane skipper ruled himself out on Friday morning with a shoulder injury.
Most expected 18th man Corey Parker would come into the starting pack or even utility Matt Gillett, who made his Origin debut last month in Melbourne.
“Dave’s played there (second-row) for Australia (against New Zealand) and for his club, it’s not as if it’s foreign to him,” said Meninga after supervising Taylor in some tackling practice towards the end of Friday’s field session.
“He’s been around and he deserves to be there.
“It’s unfortunate what has happened to Sammy but Dave will do a fantastic job for us.”
Meninga has no doubt Taylor can cause NSW some defensive headaches on the right edge, especially after he collided with the coach’s monster frame during a training drill on Friday morning.
But the Maroons coach was more concerned with getting his defence in order against a mobile and agile Blues pack.
“We’ve got to make sure defensively we’re solid and we’re working pretty hard on that right across the board,” said Meninga.
“We know what he (Taylor) can bring in attack but defence is where he is going to grow his game from.”
Likewise, Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston knows what to expect on Wednesday night and more importantly, where it’s coming from.
The North Queensland playmaker was on the receiving end of some aggressive tactics from Gold Coast lock Greg Bird when the teams clashed last weekend.
Some critics suggested it was a blueprint for NSW to shutdown Thurston on Wednesday.
“I guess we’ll find out on Wednesday night,” smiled Thurston, who copped a smack in the head from Bird in the Cowboys’ loss to the Titans which escaped the officials.
“It’s part of the game … he got a cheap one in there, didn’t he?”
Thurston said he was always targeted and especially so when he pulled on a maroon jersey.
“I don’t think that’s going to change,” he said.
“I played under Sticky (NSW coach Ricky Stuart) and I know what he likes to do and that’s put pressure of the opposing halves. Nothing’s going to change there.”
Darren Lockyer copped the same targeting from Bird before Thurston took over the No.6 jumper this year.
“I think I’m always Birdy’s favourite and Gal’s (Paul Gallen) – the list goes on,” Thurston said.
Thurston predicted NSW would have gained a lot of self belief from Origin I in Melbourne.
“They put us under the pump in a lot of areas and they’ll be even more confident coming into this game.
“We’ll need to be a much better as a team than we were in game one.”© AAP 2013