Taulagi to debut, Arrow recalled


BRISBANE: Queensland forward Jai Arrow has earned a State of Origin recall while Murray Taulagi will debut as the Maroons aim to seal the series in Perth.
Arrow’s Origin future was clouded after he was axed from camp Maroon last season for breaching Coronavirus (Covid-19) protocols.
The South Sydney workhorse was 18th man for the Maroons’ Origin I victory, but has been included as one of two additions to Billy Slater’s side to play at Optus Stadium on Sunday (7.50pm kick-off).
Powerful North Queensland winger Taulagi is the other change, the 23-year-old in for injured Melbourne flyer Xavier Coates.
The Souths forward’s decision to invite a woman into the team’s Gold Coast camp last year breached the National Rugby League’s strict Covid-19 protocols, and prompted a fine and suspension from Origin three.
But new coach Slater absolved Arrow of his sins during a pre-series heart-to-heart and the 26-year-old is now poised to play the 10th game for his state.
“I wasn’t involved last year, he has earned it through his actions this year,” Slater said. “I’ve played with Jai; I know what he brings and he would have been disappointed not making the 17 in game one.
“It was impressive the way he handled it, but I didn’t make it (the decision not to pick him) to test him.”
Arrow will take the bench spot of Lindsay Collins, who will move into the starting forward pack.
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui will shift from prop to fill the void left by injured lock Reuben Cotter, whose herculean 80-minute effort in the middle on debut helped set up Queensland’s 16-10 upset win.
Collins’ promotion will allow Pat Carrigan to play the same role he executed with impact in Sydney, the Brisbane forward changing the game during his big shift off the bench either side of halftime.
Brisbane winger Corey Oates and underrated Gold Coast back-rower Beau Fermor have been added to the extended squad, while Reece Walsh replaces Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (head injury assessment) in Slater’s only changes forced by injuries in stark contrast to his New South Wales opposite.
Despite the narrow margin in the series opener, the Blues have made seven changes to their squad and are poised to make five changes to their 17 for the rematch.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” Slater said when asked if he viewed Brad Fittler’s selections as panicked.
“That’s the position they’re in; they will field a quality team no matter who they pick.
“I’m expecting everyone from NSW to improve and us too.”
The win in Sydney was Queensland’s first since 2017 and has put them in the box seat to stop the Blues Origin from a second series victory in five years.
Maroons: Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights), Selwyn Cobbo (Brisbane Broncos), Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys), Dane Gagai (Knights), Murray Taulagi (Cowboys), Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm), captain Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Sea Eagles), Lindsay Collins (Sydney Roosters), Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons), Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders), Kurt Capewell (Broncos), Felise Kaufusi (Storm), Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Gold Coast Titans); Interchange – Harry Grant, Patrick Carrigan, Jai Arrow, Jeremiah Nanai; Reserves – Tom Dearden, Beau Fermor, Thomas Flegler, Reece Walsh, Corey Oates. – AAP