An extra prop over a mobile forward is a big mistake for NSW
Mobile forwards using footwork around the ruck to bend back Queensland’s defensive line was almost the recipe for NSW’s success in State of Origin game one.
Ricky Stuart has stuck by the formula of running the Queensland forwards ragged to halt their go forward, which would prevent shifts to their star studded backline.
But heading into game two, the biggest game of the series, Stuart has brought in Tim Grant, an extra prop at the expense of a back-rower.
Grant will push Paul Gallen, NSW’s best metre-eater, out of the front row and into lock where he will play as a third front–rower.
The promotion of Tim Grant to starting minute football adds more size to the NSW pack to try and dominate the opening exchanges in the play the ball.
Is this move too much of a gamble?
Naturally, it will take time for Grant to adjust to the faster pace that is State of Origin football. His play the ball and line speed in defence will have to increase if he is to make an impact in the second game.
Grant’s adjustment will have to be made in the first 10-15 minutes, the same amount of time in which NSW dominated the forward battle and gave them the ascendency for most of the game (bar the time of Jennings’s sin binning).
Tim Grant’s promotion has relegated Panthers teammate Luke Lewis to the interchange bench.
Luke Lewis is arguably rugby league’s best mobile forward, with his fancy footwork earning him a starting spot in the second row for Australia in the ANZAC test earlier this year.
The demotion of Luke Lewis from the starting side will limit NSW’s fast footwork around the middle of the ruck, which was their strength in game one.
Ricky Stuart has also brought Anthony Watmough onto the bench, who was controversially overlooked for the first Origin game in Melbourne.
Stuart has opted for two of NSW’s best mobile forwards to start on the bench, so the big men in the middle can earn the right for the smaller forwards to open up the ruck when the Queenslanders get tired in the later stages of the first half.
The start of Origin games is crucial. Before Stuart’s tenure, NSW had been notorious for trying to bash Queensland up the middle but would fail miserably.
The Blues proved in Origin one mobile forwards with quick footwork around the ruck can break up the Queensland defence in the early stages.
By Ricky Stuart starting with an extra front rower ahead of a mobile back-rower shows NSW is falling back into the old trap.
The inclusion of Grant to start will change the NSW’s style of play in game two.
Would you really want to change the formula now? I know it wasn’t a winning formula, but the formula itself was not the reason for NSW’s loss in game one.
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