Kevin Walters has given an ominous warning to NSW for Sunday’s second Origin clash in Perth, declaring Queensland's win at Suncorp Stadium was "a five or six out of 10".
Kalyn Ponga, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt played their first Origin game together as a starting quartet at Suncorp Stadium in Queensland’s 18-14 win, a performance Munster said after the game was "clunky".
Speaking to media in Perth, Walters reiterated his ultimate confidence in his team, stating "we expect to win game two" while outlining why his spine has a lot more potential.
"With the team we have selected we know there is improvement," Walters said.
"After reviewing the game [at Suncorp] I would probably give it a five, or maybe if I am being kind a six out of 10, and the players are aware of this.
"We have come over early to get ourselves mentally and physically prepared for the game of our lives."
Walters has been analysing the key areas needed for his side to wrap up the series at Optus Stadium.
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"Firstly, we look at our attack, it was the first game our spine has played together," Walters said.
"DCE had five weeks out before he played his first Origin game from major surgery and for him to play the way he did in game one, I thought it was outstanding. He can play better, certainly he can.
"Kalyn Ponga has only had two Origin games for Queensland so you would expect his best football is in front of him as well. How exciting is that for all Queenslanders.
"[Munster] was excellent for the Storm on the weekend. Has he played his best Origin game yet? No he hasn’t. His best football is in front of him. He hasn’t played his best Origin game yet, but he will on Sunday night.
"Ben Hunt, that was his first game at hooker in the toughest game in the world and he comes out ... what a performance he gave, he will get better in game two. I have a lot of faith and trust in what Ben will bring as a footballer. He is a tough little bugger and he loves the challenge of Origin."
The Maroons were not entirely happy with their defensive work early in Origin I where James Tedesco and Damien Cook made inroads on the back of tough work through the middle by David Klemmer.
When asked if he slept any easier knowing NSW centre Latrell Mitchell was not playing on Sunday night, Walters turned his attention to another area the Maroons must lift.
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"The other team have done what they've done but it doesn't bother me one little bit. I sleep easier knowing this Queensland team we’ve picked is a good side and will be a great side," he said.
"Our work this week will be all about fine tuning some areas of our game that need to get better and will get better. Defence wins Origins and that is what we will be working on this week – improving our defensive line through the ruck and around the edges. We need to be really tight."
The Maroons have brought middle forwards Tim Glasby and Jarrod Wallace into the side through injury to Joe Ofahengaue and Jai Arrow, two players Walters said he was confident would do the job based on what they had already shown him in the Origin arena.
The Maroons coach examined Optus Stadium, the venue for Sunday night’s game, earlier in the year. He said he was confident the surface would hold up fine despite concerns that it may be too hard underneath after West Coast and Fremantle AFL sides expressed concerns following leg fractures to their players.
"No, we will be fine. We would play in the desert. This is Origin," Walters said.
"Our boys will go anywhere to put that jersey on and represent their state really proud."
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 2 -
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth