State of Origin: James Tamou ready for a repeat showing
BLUES front-rower James Tamou will never forget last year's Origin series win, and says the New South Wales team is ready to repeat the dose despite the absence of several key players including star winger Jarryd Hayne and forwards Paul Gallen and Greg Bird.
"Last year's series was one of the best things to happen in my career," Tamou said.
"The level of professionalism has definitely gone up year by year.
"Individually as well, I'm very impressed with the boys and all the steps they take to get their bodies right.
"I think stepping up with Paul Gallen and Greg Bird out, I think that sort of leaves a bit of a hole that no one individually can fill, but as a team we can get the job done so I think that everyone, including myself needs to step up."
If New South Wales has an advantage in one area, it's in the forwards where selectors have gone for a monster pack.
Dragons prop Trent Merrin, one of four big forwards named on the bench, said he would be chomping at the bit to get on the field tomorrow night.
"Yeah I can't wait for my chance," he said.
"I've had to lift both coming off the bench and starting, so either way it's going to be a good test and I've got to put my hand up."
Merrin said he didn't agree the team's strength was solely in the forward pack, although he did acknowledge the bench quartet could be the x-factor.
"I think the whole 17 is probably our strong point, but I know that we've got a big job to do coming off the bench to keep that intensity up," he said.
"We've got the players there to do that."