Stat of Origin: Chambers' Test spot under threat from Mitchell

Does Latrell Mitchell's dominance over opposite number Will Chambers in Origin entitle him to favouritism for a green and gold jersey at the end of the year?

There has been a changing of the guard in the Holden State of Origin arena in 2018 which will unquestionably lead to a similar generational shift when Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga picks his Australian team to play New Zealand in October.

Gone are Australia stalwarts Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, with Billy Slater very soon set to accompany his fellow Maroons greats in representative retirement.

New Blues coach Brad Fittler has successfully gone without incumbent Kangaroos trio Aaron Woods, Josh Dugan and Wade Graham in Origin this year. Injury will end or at least hamper the hopes of a few more members of the 2017 World Cup squad (such as Michael Morgan, Jordan McLean, Matt Gillett and Josh Mansour) for the next Kangaroos squad.

Even a few weeks ago, Chambers - who has been a star for the Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos in recent years and is arguably the best in his position in the NRL - was an automatic selection.

However, with Chambers being completely outplayed by Mitchell in Queensland's first two Origin losses, his Test selection is no longer so clear-cut.

Following the series, Meninga will pick a "merit team" which is essentially a composite side featuring the best players from the Origin series. This would not prevent someone like Dugan playing the next Test for Australia if his form warranted it but certainly based on the series to date that merit team would feature a centre pairing of Mitchell and Greg Inglis.

While Inglis will miss game three and the next six weeks with a broken thumb he will be back in time for the Rabbitohs' finals push and is certain to be picked for Australia's end-of-year meeting with New Zealand (and potentially Tonga) if he avoids further injury.

Chambers is a right-side centre and Inglis a natural left-sided player – the same side as Mitchell – which works in Chambers's favour. However, Inglis has won a Clive Churchill Medal playing at five-eighth for Melbourne, a premiership for Souths from fullback and Origins from the wing and is more than capable of switching to right centre, if needed.

Looking over the two Origins, Mitchell has been the dominant centre on that side of the field both according to the eye test and an avalanche of stats.

In 160 minutes of play Mitchell dominates Chambers in tackle breaks 17-4 and leads line breaks 3-1, tries 2-1 and line break assists 1-0.

The only attacking stat in which Chambers leads is average metres (133-102) and this is partly a function of Queensland's backs having to pitch in more while their forwards lose the arm-wrestle in the middle.

Defensively, Chambers has missed 13 tackles to just one for Mitchell, who leads the effective tackle percentage 83-72. Chambers has seven break causes to just two for Mitchell (A break cause is registered when a player is deemed to have contributed to an opposition break and multiple players can register break causes for a single line break if more than one were deemed responsible).

Of course, Mitchell has not been faultless through Origin despite a relative lack of defensive frailties; he came up with two crucial errors and a couple of poor penalties conceded in Origin II in one of the ultimate rocks-and-diamonds performances.

Fittler said afterwards he had stressed Mitchell needed to back himself and would not be looking to reel those attacking instincts in but the high-risk offload on his own 20, in particular, is the sort of play likely to test Meninga's patience.

While the difference between the pair has been stark through Origin because they directly face each other, Mitchell has also been far more dominant throughout this Telstra Premiership.

The young Rooster heads Chambers in most key attacking stats, leading line breaks 7-2, line break assists 5-2, tries 6-2, try assists 4-2, tackle busts 66-20 and offloads 15-9. As in Origin, the only attacking stat that favours Chambers is average metres, where he holds a 97-81 advantage.

Even defensively, an area where Chambers has historically been one of the best in his position, the Storm veteran has had some issues. He has missed 37 tackles to just 17 for Mitchell, although their break causes and effective tackle percentages are near identical (the latter due to Chambers's higher total tackles and Mitchell's higher ineffective tackles).

Meninga, who was a colossus in the centres in his playing days, faces a mammoth decision on whether to stick with his veteran or give the young gun a chance in the green and gold.

 

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