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Ranking the Maroons forwards candidates for 2021 Origin

After an impressive upset series win last year, the Queensland pack has plenty to build on but will have at least two enforced changes under new coach Paul Green.

With plenty of budding forwards for Green to choose from, NRL.com Stats has crunched the numbers to see who is putting their hand up.

Maroons forwards candidates

Front row

Candidates: Christian Welch, Tino Fa'asuameleaui, Dunamis Lui, Jarrod Wallace, Moeaki Fotuaika, Josh Kerr

The knee injury to Lindsay Collins and suspension of Josh Papalii for Origin I have huge implications for the make-up of Green's team, with each man superb last year and almost certain of inclusion had they been available.

The good news is there is still no shortage of middle forwards putting their hands up. Storm premiership-winner Christian Welch is going as well as ever and is sure to take one spot while towering Titan Tino Fa'asuameleaui played lock for Queensland last year but has found a home at prop under Justin Holbrook in 2021.

Fotuaika and Lui each got a taste last year but played just the one game in the series, which for both was the huge 34-10 game two loss. Lui hasn't been a certain starter at Canberra this year while Fotuaika has been steady but less dominant than in 2020.

Kerr was in the Maroons squad last year but not given a debut; he's been very impressive for the Dragons but mostly playing wider due to Tyson Frizell's departure from the club.

Numbers-wise, Welch offers a real point of difference with his offloads and has the strongest numbers when it comes to running the ball even if his effective tackle rate is a little low. Fotuaika is the other real standout when it comes to numbers running the ball while Wallace's stats also compare favourably given his comparably low minutes.

Kerr's numbers are skewed by having been put on an edge for most of this year but still stack up well while Lui's numbers suffer from how little game time he has been afforded by coach Ricky Stuart this year.

Fa'asuameleaui's numbers are dynamic, if a little erratic, but the impact he's provided for the Titans this year and his general work rate coupled with his impressive Origin debut last year should see him into the side.

NRL.com verdict: Welch and Fa'asuameleaui starting with Wallace and Fotuaika on the bench.

Second row

Candidates: David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Jaydn Su'A, Kurt Capewell

A combination of Kaufusi, Su'A, Capewell and Coen Hess got the job done with Fifita sidelined but the return of the Titans wrecking ball, and his irresistible form this year, demand his inclusion.

It creates a good kind of headache for Green.

Storm stalwart Kaufusi played all 240 minutes of last year's series win and with the Storm flying high he can be expected to be called on for similar again this year.

Capewell had a wow of a debut series plugging a gap at centre then migrating to the pack for the decider and with his utility value he can expect to find a place somewhere in the 17 this year.

With a maximum of three edge forward spots in the 17 that puts the squeeze on Su'A, who has been strong this year but was used for just 13 minutes in last year's decider.

Stats-wise, Fifita's numbers are frankly frightening. His nine tries and 57 busts are each comfortably more than the other three candidates combined and even defensively it is only Kaufusi that is out in front of him.

Kaufusi's numbers in attack don't stand out although the excellent defensive side plus his incumbency will certainly see him into the team. Capewell has been a real handful this year and has no doubt benefitted from playing in a dominant Panthers team but he's still offered plenty with ball in hand while his versatility also counts in his favour.

Su'A has been strong as well and would be unlucky to miss out but that is shaping up to be the way it pans out.

NRL.com verdict: Fifita and Kaufusi starting with Capewell on the bench.

Lock

Candidates: Jai Arrow, Joe Ofahengaue, Corey Horsburgh

Fa'asuameleaui and Arrow are both likely to be in the 17 and each is just as comfortable at lock as prop while Ofahengaue has found a home in the Wests Tigers No.13 jersey this year after predominantly playing as a front-rower previously. His two Origin caps came in 2019 as he paid for a downturn in form in Brisbane's dire 2020 season at the Origin selection table last year.

Horsburgh has played all four games this year since being recalled after a belated start due to suspension but is yet to fully recapture his pre-injury form from early last year and like the other three has played both front row and lock.

Stats-wise, all have plenty to offer. Horsburgh is getting through a mountain of work given his relatively low time on field while Ofahengaue's stats are a little skewed by having spent time on an edge this year but he has offered the Wests Tigers a point of difference with ball in hand.

Arrow is more of a known quantity and despite having to bide his time as a bench forward in a strong Souths pack, has brought plenty of quality when he does get on the field.

You could make a case for any of the three to find a way into the 17 but you can't pick them all and Arrow's efforts in Origin last year (plus how badly Queensland missed him when he was injured in 2019) should earn him the nod.

NRL.com verdict: Arrow  

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.