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Ranking the Maroons forwards candidates for Origin 2020

After back-to-back State of Origin series losses, the Maroons are set to unleash a new-look forward pack under returning coach Wayne Bennett this year.

NRL.com Stats has crunched the numbers on the known and likely candidates to determine who should make Bennett's 17 on November 4.

Incumbent players who have already missed the cut or are unavailable have not been assessed, although the likes of Josh McGuire, Jarrod Wallace and Joe Ofahengaue could still be recalled if needed.

David Fifita and Ethan Lowe (injured) and Tim Glasby (retired) along with Ofahengaue and McGuire make up five forwards from last year's game three loss who will be replaced in game one this year.

Non-hooker forwards are likely to occupy three of the four bench spots, barring further injuries to eligible players, given Ben Hunt's utility value and Harry Grant's emergence.

Maroons forwards candidates

Prop

Candidates: Moeaki Fotuaika, Christian Welch, Lindsay Collins, Josh Kerr, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Josh Papalii

Four of the five are already in the squad with Papalii and Welch set to be added after the Raiders and Storm campaigns wrap up. Of those, only Papalii (15 games) and Welch (one) have played Origin before, with Welch debuting in game three last year off the bench – though he would likely have featured sooner but for injury.

There isn't a great deal between most of the candidates statistically.

Papalii will be the first name on the team sheet for November 4 and is arguably the form prop in the game right now. He has the best defensive numbers, the busiest decoy and support numbers and equal most busts of available candidates.

Welch has the best offload figures, the next best busiest decoy and support numbers behind Papalii but (perhaps surprisingly) the lowest effective tackle rate. Playing in a dominant Storm team will help his cause as well.

Collins has produced some eye-catching figures; his 10.6 metres per run is the third-best of any middle forward behind Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo (11.2) and breakout Shark Royce Hunt (10.9). Collins' percentage of dominant runs according to NRL.com Stats is 9.5% – among regular middle forwards only Taumalolo (11.1%) betters him.

Fotuaiki has been immense in the middle for the improving Titans this year. He plays the most minutes and makes the most tackles of any on this list while his metres per carry and 40 busts are also impressive.

Fa'asuamaleaui played under-20s Origin just last year but has been dynamic for the Storm in 2020. Of the six he would be most likely to add utility value on an edge if needed and has arguably the greatest impact potential with seven tries to his name this year.

Kerr appears to be at the back of the pack for now, playing the smallest minutes of the six although he has been impressive this year.

His metres and post-contact metres per carry are each second best on the list and his defensive numbers stack up well especially considering the Dragons' woes.

With only four of the six likely to be picked, the question is balance – whether to pick three steady players and one impact player, or two and two, effectively making it a choice between Fotuaika and Fa'asuamaleaui for the last spot. In a condensed campaign, it is likely most if not all will get a run at some point during the series.

NRL.com verdict: Papalii and Welch to start with Collins and Fotuaika on the bench.

Lock

Candidates: Jai Arrow and Pat Carrigan.

Arrow has performed well in all four of his Origins to date and was missed when out with injury last year while Carrigan is one of the few players to have performed consistently well at Brisbane this year.

Arrow's numbers are down in 2020 compared to 2018 and 19 but it would be a huge call to leave him out while Carrigan could not have done much more at Brisbane.

Comparing the two, Carrigan plays bigger minutes, makes more tackles at a better effective rate and makes more metres both overall and per carry with greater post-contact and has the second-quickest play-the-ball of any middle forward being looked at for either side after Jake Trbojevic.

In Arrow's favour is Origin experience and the Titans' strong finish to 2020.

NRL.com verdict: Carrigan, with Arrow on the bench.

Second row

Candidates: Felise Kaufusi, Coen Hess, Jaydn Su'A, Kurt Capewell

The injury to David Fifita leaves a huge hole on the edge for the Maroons. Hess is the only edge forward in the group of 16 named so far while the other three listed here are all still alive in the Telstra Premiership.

Kaufusi is having a great year for the Storm and has played every Origin match over the past two years and looks assured of one spot. Su'A is having the best year of his career to date and plays under Maroons coach Bennett at club level.

Capewell is playing well for the team that came first but missed more than half the season through injury and is now playing off the bench when the Panthers are at full strength.

The selection of Hess raised eyebrows given the Cowboy's underwhelming recent club form – he was not even selected over the final month of 2020 by interim coach Josh Hannay.

His clubmate Josh McGuire looked to be in better form at club level and in last year's Origin series and was discarded, while Hess hasn't been picked for Queensland since 2018.

Statistically there is very little between the four in terms of general play running and tackling, with Capewell (over a small sample size) doing the best per-carry and Kaufusi the best defensively. Su'A busts far more tackles than the other three with the most offloads, but has the slowest play-the-ball.

Worryingly for Hess, he has the most line-break causes with 20 – more than the other three combined. His per-carry contribution is dead even with Su'A but with a lightning fast play-the-ball – a full second faster than Su'A per ruck.

Capewell also has a quick play-the-ball and has been used in the centres and even on the wing at NRL level, giving him utility appeal depending on the make-up of the rest of the squad.

NRL.com verdict: Kaufusi and Su'A, with Capewell in the frame for a utility role on the bench depending on team balance.