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State of Origin: New Blues halves pairing to feel the heat

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 26/05/2014 Michael Carayannis

Blues skipper Paul Gallen has described his halves as the most under pressure of any NSW players heading into Wednesday’s opening State of Origin match.

All eyes will be on rookie pairing Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson as they try to lead the Blues to victory against Queensland in front of a fierce Suncorp Stadium crowd. Gallen said it was up to the duo to produce a good performance.

“They know that [they are under pressure],” Gallen said. “That's why halfbacks get paid the big dollars because they are under the most pressure and they have to perform in big moments – and this is a big moment on Wednesday.

“Everyone has to play well. We have to get ourselves to that opportunity. You rely on the forwards and our halves' kicking games. I think that's the most important thing. That's where it's probably got us in the last couple of years. The kicking from their halves and Cameron Smith has just been better than ours. That puts more pressure on [our halves]  than [fullback] Jarryd [Hayne].

“The halves and the hooker are the centrepiece of your team. You try to build around them. They have been great. It's been smooth. Hodkinson's passing game, he just whips a pass out, which I haven't seen anyone do for a while. He has a great passing game on him. Grubby's [Reynolds] energy is really infectious. I think they are ready to go.”

The Blues hope the halves won’t fall into the same trap that plagued prop Aaron Woods in his debut series last year. Woods has said he was caught up too much in the hype, and his performance was below its best.

Gallen said Woods would produce a better showing this series.

“He has been really good this year,” Gallen said. “He got an opportunity last year and he has come out and admitted it himself, that maybe he was overawed by the occasion. The build-up during the week and all that can really affect you, especially if you are young. He has experienced that now. I believe he is past that. He has trained really well, he is pretty vocal, which is good. It shows that he is confident and he has been in outstanding form at club level. Jimmy Tamou has done it at Australian and this level before, so they're going to be big for us.”

The Blues will look to unsettle the Queenslanders by going after in-form prop Matt Scott, who shapes as Queensland’s forward leader and is the only genuine prop in their squad.

“He is their No.1 player especially in their forwards,” Gallen said. “We have to limit his impact in the game but we aren't going there just worried about Matt Scott.”

The Blues had a training-free day on Monday and will get their first look at Suncorp Stadium during a light captain’s run on Tuesday.

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