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Maroons face ‘real challenge’ as former coach admits Blues are ‘more experienced’ in key positions

36 hours and counting down until the 2019 State of Origin series explodes into action at Suncorp Stadium and former Maroons coach Michael Hagan says the excitement surrounding this campaign is driven largely by a new world order in key positions.

“There’s a real changing of the guard for Queensland in particular, with their spine changing so dramatically, without the likes of Cameron Smith, and Thurston, and Billy Slater of course,” Hagan tells David Morrow and Mat Thompson.

“Now it’s Kalyn Ponga, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Munster and Benny Hunt at dummy half, so it’s a real shift for Queensland in that area.”

While a changing of the guard has played out in Queensland, the Blues aren’t exactly fielding a team of battle-hardened Origin combatants.

Five debutants will take to the field for New South Wales, including Cody Walker who joins Nathan Clearly in the halves, who himself has only suited up for one Origin series.

Despite boasting an untested halves pairing, and perhaps in a time-honoured tradition of seeking underdog status, Hagan says the Blues have the experience where it matters most.

“New South Wales are probably a little bit more experienced in the key positions than Queensland, probably for the first time in quite a number of years, to be honest,” he said.

“I’m a Queensland fan and I want to see them do well but I just think in the middle third of the field, they’ve nearly got the same forward pack that they went in with last year, apart from Jack de Belin, of course,”

“Jake Trbovejic is arguably going better than him in terms of what can he offer with the footy, and having been around the test team I know exactly what Jake Trbojevic and Tyson Frizell and Boyd Cordiner bring to the table, let alone Klemmer, Vaughan and Payne Haas,

“I think there’s a real challenge for the middle third of Queensland.”

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