Maroons v Blues: Dearden, Oates set to start; Saifiti named at prop

The stakes couldn't be higher at Suncorp Stadium as the 2022 Ampol State of Origin series comes down to a decider.

Following Queensland's narrow win in the series opener in Sydney it was the Blues hitting back in Perth to set up a mouth-watering contest at the spiritual home of Origin.

Both sides have been forced into changes with Blues prop Payne Haas nursing a shoulder injury and Maroons stalwart Felise Kaufusi on family leave in the USA.

North Queensland forward Tom Gilbert will join Billy Slater's bench, with young gun Jeremiah Nanai set for his first start at the Origin level.

History favours the Maroons with the last five deciders played at Suncorp all going the way of the home side... 20-14 in 2020, 22-6 in 2017, 52-6 in 2015, 21-20 in 2012 and 34-24 in 2011.

The last time NSW prevailed in a deciding game in Brisbane was 2005 with Immortal Andrew Johns inspiring a 32-10 win.

Team News

The QRL announced on Saturday morning that PCR swabs have confirmed both Cameron Munster and Murray Taulagi have COVID-19 and will miss Wednesday's Origin decider. The pair had earlier returned positive Rapid Antigen Tests on Friday and been isolated from the rest of the squad.

As a result, Tom Dearden has been named start at five-eighth with Corey Oates on the wing — Ben Hunt will remain at hooker with Harry Grant on the bench.

Team doctor Matt Hislop said on Wednesday that Kalyn Ponga (concussion) had passed all return to play protocols and would take his place at fullback. 

Cowboys teenager Jeremiah Nanai is set to make his start in Origin as he replaces Felise Kaufusi (personal) with club teammate Tom Gilbert coming on to the bench for his debut.

New South Wales
With Jordan McLean sidelined with a hamstring injury, Knights prop Jacob Saifiti moves into the starting side for his Origin debut alongside Jake Trbojevic in the front row. Apisai Koroisau will once again start at hooker with Damien Cook on the bench, with Cameron Murray and Liam Martin named in the second row.

Coach Brad Fittler has stuck solid with Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton in the centres so Jack Wighton has been named 18th Man after playing Game One and then missing Game Two with COVID. Sharks skipper Dale Finucane was added to the extended squad on Friday and will feature as 19th Man.

Key match-up
Daly Cherry-Evans v Nathan Cleary

With 18 and 12 Origins respectively, DCE and Cleary know exactly what is required on the big stage and the 2022 decider could well come down to which playmaker can hold his nerve, absorb the pressure and come up with the clutch plays. In Game One it was the Maroons No.7 producing a clever try from the srumbase to catch the Blues napping while Cleary had his fingerprints all over Game Two in a player-of-the-match display. The kicking game of both halfbacks will be crucial to building pressure and dominating field position, and a piece of magic in broken play could make the difference in a contest that is sure to be tight and tense with so much at stake. The chance to cement their Origin legacy awaits the victor of this intriguing battle of will and skill.

Stat Attack
If the Maroons can grab the victory, Billy Slater will become the fifth Queensland coach to win the series in his first year as Origin mentor. Kevin Walters achieved the feat in 2016 as did Mal Meninga in 2006, Paul Vautin in 1995 and Kiwi Graham Lowe in 1991.

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