Cop Webb loss on chin, Mal tells Maroons - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cop Webb loss on chin, Mal tells Maroons

By Wayne Heming and Todd Balym 22/05/2007 10:05:31 PM Comments (0)

Coach Mal Meninga cheekily reclaimed Queensland's cherished underdog tag as the Maroons came to grips with losing Origin strongman Carl Webb.

NSW rival Graham Murray hit town, reminding Queensland they were hot favourites and how much they disliked the favourite tag.

Queensland have always drawn on the underdog role and adversity and they were using the loss of forward enforcer Webb as a positive.

"Probably the odds, with Carl out of the side and Antonio coming in, and how they (NSW) rate themselves in the forwards, we'll probably BE underdogs tomorrow," smiled Meninga, showing few signs of pre-game pressure.

Webb, who returned to Townsville, was left shattered after Maroons medical staff ruled him out of Wednesday's Origin opener at Suncorp Stadium following a brief fitness test.

"It would have been a risk to take Carl into the game but we've got a very able and very fit Antonio Kaufusi," said Meninga.

"Carl's a huge loss for us, no doubt.

"He epitomises the maroon jersey. He loves playing Queensland, he has a huge passion to play in that jersey.

"He's going to be sorely missed.

"The players realise that but we've just got to cop it on the chin and get on with it.

"I'm pretty confident Antonio will do a similar job for us."

"He's a big chap with a fair bit of aggression and he likes to play with that mindset.

"He can hit and he's got a really good running game and if he's raring to go, he can really worry the opposition.

"He's got good feet and a good off-load on him."

Kaufusi was put on Origin alert the moment he stepped off the plane and Meninga said the strapping Storm forward had the size and skills to do the job.

"Mal told me to be prepared to be play (when I got to camp)," said the 190cm, 112 Tonga-born prop.

"It's been a bit of a shock but a good shock."

Meninga can start either rookie Neville Costigan or Nate Myles who did a great job last year, in Webb's second-row spot.

"We've got a few options," he said.

"We'll probably start with the more experienced player so that probably brings Nate Myles into the picture."

Murray was adamant he would run his team onto Suncorp Stadium as selected.

But Meninga, who's set to interchange fullback Karmichael Hunt and winger Greg Inglis, was expecting a late change or two.

Queensland are planning for Jamie Lyon and Matt King to play on the right side and Matt Cooper and rookie Jarryd Hayne on the left.

"We've got our thoughts on what might happen," said Meninga.

"We'll see what happens but we'll be surprised if there's no late changes."

Murray defended his Blues backline against a Queensland line-up rated as good as any the Maroons have field in Origin.

NSW have a big edge in the forwards with a near all-Australian pack but Queensland boast six of Ricky Stuart's seven Kangaroo backs.

Murray said the NSW backline, which includes rookies Jarrod Mullen and teenage winger Hayne, had the potency to challenge Queensland's classy backline.

"I think we've got a good football team that can test Queensland, I know they are the favourites, they've got the Test nine, seven, six and one," said Murray.

"I think we've got a good balance right across the 17 to test this team.

"They are still the favourites, they've still got supposedly the best team they've picked for a long time, the underdog thing sits well with us."

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