Welcome to the deciding match of State of Origin 2013. Can New South Wales rise to the occasion at home without captain Paul Gallen or will Queensland once again prove too strong? Join us for live scores and commentary from 8.00pm AEST.
The Blues will not get a better opportunity than tonight to register their first series win over the Maroons since 2005.
NSW has won its past two matches at ANZ Stadium against Queensland and will have no excuses should they fail to yet again secure a series win against their great rivals.
Queensland, however, will have fond memories of the last time they played a decider in Sydney.
The Maroons managed to defeat the Blues in the 2008 Origin decider at ANZ Stadium and possess the class and confidence necessary to inflict similar misery yet again on NSW.
Despite being well outplayed at Suncorp three weeks ago, Blues coach Laurie Daley has remained loyal to the players that got the job done in Sydney six weeks ago.
Halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney retain their place in the starting line-up for NSW despite struggling in Game 2 and must repay the coach’s faith with career defining performances tonight in front of the Blues faithful.
Josh Dugan also keeps his spot at fullback while James McManus comes in on the wing to replace Nathan Merritt who has been dropped.
NSW’s forward stocks, however, have undergone some key changes with Gallen the most notable absentee after succumbing to a foot injury late last week.
Gallen’s absence means Robbie Farah will captain the Blues for the first time in his career and he will be joined in the frontrow alongside Tigers team-mate Aaron Woods.
Boyd Cordner will also makes his debut for NSW off the bench. The young Roosters forward has been in outstanding form for the Bondi Junction club and replaces Josh Reynolds, who drops off the bench.
With Gallen missing, it will be up to Luke Lewis, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird, Farah and Anthony Watmough to lead from the front in the Origin decider.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga meanwhile has seen no need to change a side that has continually done the job for the past seven seasons.
Debutants Josh Papalii and Daly Cherry-Evans retain their place in Queensland’s line-up after solid efforts in Game 2.
Superstars Johnathon Thurston, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis will also once again stand in the way of NSW’s hopes of securing an overdue Origin series victory at home.
Prediction (Get live odds here)
If the opening two games are anything to go by, tonight’s Origin decider could very well be decided during the opening 20 minutes.
In Game 1, the Blues managed to outmuscle the Maroons in the first half, establishing a 14 nil lead courtesy of great work from their forwards.
Queensland however returned the favour in Game 2 as they dominated field position and possession in the opening 20 minutes to all but end NSW’s chances of securing victory.
Both teams will be very keen to avoid getting outmuscled in the opening 20 minutes, so we should expect both sets of forwards to really give it their all tonight.
Queensland forwards Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Matt Scott and Nate Myles were all superb in Game 2 for the Maroons and will once again look to the lead the way upfront against the Blues.
The same effort can also be expected from NSW forwards Bird, Lewis, Andrew Fifita, Hoffman and Watmough.
The battle in the halves will also be fierce with Pearce and Maloney eager for redemption after being well outclassed by Cronk and Thurston in Game 2.
The pressure on Pearce’s shoulders in particular will be massive tonight. The Roosters halfback really needs to on song with his kicking and passing game if he hopes to retain his NSW jersey for season’s to come.
With Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds quickly establishing himself as one of the best no. 7′s in the NRL, another flat performance from Pearce will almost definitely see him relinquish his half back spot to Reynolds next season.
With so much on the line, it is difficult to tip against Queensland, given the massive amount of big-game players they have at their disposal.
While NSW will give it their all, a moment of brilliance from Cronk, Slater, Inglis, Thurston or Smith may once again allow the Maroons to seal their eighth consecutive series win.
Queensland by two.