Queensland State of Origin selector Darren Lockyer says Billy Slater won’t hesitate to hand rookie winger Murray Taulagi a State of Origin debut in game two, despite the series being on the line.
The Maroons can clinch the series with a win in Perth, but they’ll do so without the injured Xavier Coates.
Coates will miss the rest of the series after suffering a syndesmosis injury during the first half of Origin I in Sydney.
READ MORE: Aussie horse destroys world’s best at Royal Ascot
READ MORE: ‘Insanity’ that’s driven Wests Tigers’ decade of pain
READ MORE: ‘Hero’ Glenn Maxwell slogs Aussies home in thriller
His injury forced Slater into a mid-match reshuffle, the Maroons going into the match with four forwards on their bench.
Slater has all but confirmed Coates’ replacement will be one of two Cowboys players in the extended squad for game one – Taulagi or Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Watch State of Origin exclusively live and free on Channel 9 and 9Now.
Tabuai-Fidow made his Origin debut in game three last year in the centres. In Taulagi’s favour is that he plays left wing for the Cowboys, the position Slater needs to fill.
The pair will have one final opportunity to impress when North Queensland plays Manly on Friday.
The Maroons team for game two will be named at the conclusion of this weekend’s round of matches.
Coates limps off with ankle injury
Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER, Lockyer was playing his cards close to his chest, but conceded Slater would have no hesitation bringing in a rookie with the series up for grabs.
“Knowing Billy’s mentality, he likes to look at the player, understand what he brings to the team,” Lockyer said.
“I think experience or not is not a real factor for Billy, he just sees the player and he knows he can potentially get the best out of him.”
Lockyer said Queensland’s depth is the best he’s seen for a number of years, admitting they were struggling in that area in recent times.
QLDER host Adam Jackson floated the idea of a recall for the experienced Corey Oates, who played the last of his eight Origin matches in 2019.
“I don’t think he’s out of it, I guess you would say they’re (Taulagi and Tabuai-Fidow) ahead of him, given the fact they were in camp,” Lockyer said.
Queensland legend Wally Lewis acknowledged the absence of Coates wasn’t ideal, but agreed his replacement will be one of the two players from North Queensland.
“That will be some concern for Queensland, there’s no doubt about that,” Lewis said.
“I think Murray Taulagi will get the opportunity to step up, I’ve been very impressed with his games up north, certainly he’s produced some of his best performances.
“The selectors may also be thinking that if they need to they can shift Tabuai-Fidow from centres where he’s been performing extremely well.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!