Queensland prop Matt Scott says he is very familiar with the threat posed by NSW debutant Aaron Woods because of how prominently he figures on the tip sheet for NRL games.
Asked for his reaction to the selection of the Wests Tigers prop for State of Origin II at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, Cowboys co-captain Scott replied: “I’m not surprised he’s there. I’m probably surprised it took so long – he’s been knocking on the door for a long time.
“He’s a quality front-rower and I know when we play the Tigers we look at Robbie Farah running off the momentum Woods creates when he takes the ball up, so that’s going to be a danger for us. He’ll certainly add something to the NSW pack. We’ve really got to stop his momentum.”
Woods and Blues hooker Farah will obviously be trying to use the combination they have developed at club level when NSW attempts to clinch the series by winning Game Two. The Blues won the opening game 14-6 at ANZ Stadium on June 5.
James Tamou, who was suspended for Game Two as part of his penalty for being caught drink-driving, is the player whose vacancy Woods is filling. Tamou is also Scott’s teammate at North Queensland.
“I feel really sorry for him as a mate,” Scott said. “You never like seeing guys miss out on rep opportunities, but Jimmy’s got youth on his side and there’s no doubt the fact he’s such a quality player will mean he’ll be back for many more games.”
Woods, who has gone straight into the starting side for Origin II, is the second prop the Blues will have blooded in this series. Andrew Fifita came off the bench in Game One.
Asked for his opinion on Fifita’s entry into Origin, Scott replied: “He was really good. He’s a very dynamic runner of the footy.
“You’ve really got to do a job on him in defence, your first-up contact’s got to be great, and we didn’t quite have that when he was on there in the first game. He bounced out of a couple of tackles and he can definitely hurt you like that, so we’ve got to look at our defence and our first-up contact and sticking with the tackle.”
Scott had been used to starting up front with Petero Civoniceva in the Queensland side, but in the wake of Civoniceva’s retirement at the end of last season David Shillington was given the job for Origin I.
But now Shillington is gone – a selection casualty, along with back-rower Ashley Harrison, as a result of the loss in Game One. Shillington had played a lot of Origin and Test football in recent years, and Scott says his omission had effectively put all of the Maroons on notice.
“It’s very unfortunate for ‘Shillo’,” Scott said. “He’s a great mate of mine and I think he’s one of the best front-rowers going around. He’s an Origin and Test-level front-rower, so his missing out has brought in a bit of reality for everyone. It’s a pretty sharp reminder that we’ve all got to perform.
“We’ve had a couple of changes, which is pretty unusual for this squad, so there’s no doubt there’s pressure on there to perform.”
So, from Game Three of last year’s series through to Game Two this year, Scott has gone from partnering Civoniceva in the front row to partnering Shillington and now Nate Myles, who is comfortable anywhere in the forwards.
Myles, when he is named at lock for games, usually spends plenty of time as one of the “middle three” along with the two props anyway.
“Nate has done the job a thousand times before and I’m pretty happy to have him there beside me,” Scott said.
“There’s not much difference between most locks and front-rowers these days. It’s the same sort of job and he’s been doing it at club level. I’m sure he can do the same thing on Wednesday night.
“My game doesn’t really change according to who is playing as the other starting prop. You still try and do the same job you do every time you run out.
“I suppose the dynamics are a little bit different with different guys starting, but Nate – he’s played over 20 Origins and I’ve played the majority of mine with him in there, so we know each other’s game pretty well and I don’t think it will be too much of a difference.”
Civoniceva, talking in the media, identified the lack of intensity Queensland showed in the early stages of Origin I as the most important thing they have to change for Game Two. Asked if that was fair comment, Scott replied: “Yeah, that’s totally true.
“We spoke about our start before Game One, and how we needed to begin well against this side, and we didn’t deliver on that. They had a bit more intensity and aggression in their carries, and their kick-chase was really good, which sort of stifled us down our own end a bit.
“We’ve got to address that and look at starting the game with a bit more intensity.”