STATE OF ORIGIN: Queensland coach Mal Meninga has backed his star players to raise their game in tonight's do-or-die State of Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium.
Halves Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk proved the difference in Queensland's thrilling series win last year but champion five-eighth Thurston went quiet in this series' opening game in Sydney, which the Blues won 14-6.
Admittedly, Thurston was suffering from a virus and a groin injury, and Meninga said there would be no pressure on the Cowboys pivot going into tonight's must-win game.
"There's no pressure on JT to do anything," Meninga said. "We understand he's been a great player for us over many years and he'll do the job again."
Thurston was not the only Maroons player criticised following Origin I, after Queensland's front row failed to match the aggression of the Blues.
Despite having just the one genuine front-rower for this game, however, Meninga is confident his engine room will get the job done.
"You look at Sam (Thaiday), you look at Nate (Myles), and they can play front row at the Broncos and Titans. Matt (Scott) plays in the middle - we're going to play 'Papa' in the middle," he said.
Meninga refused to buy into all the pre-game hype that Queensland's new public enemy No.1, combative Blues captain Paul Gallen, would be targeted.
"It's about us ... we haven't talked about it. We're not out there to intentionally target Paul Gallen," the master coach said.
Meninga admitted his team could not afford to trail 14-0 at half-time as they did in Sydney.
"I think our heads are right," he said.
"I'm thinking we'll get the start right. It'll be a very interesting first 20 minutes, I would imagine.
"We know we have to do better, we know we have to execute better, we know our attitude's got to be spot-on.
"We've got our backs against the wall."
Meninga was surprisingly relaxed at yesterday's press conference at Suncorp Stadium - a far cry to his impassioned "I'm stirred up because nobody gives us a chance" comment in 2006.
Rather than escalate a war of words, after headlines in Queensland accused the Blues of cheating in game one by not being square at marker, Meninga played down those concerns.
Blues coach Laurie Daley had hit back at those claims, saying the Maroons were also spotted offside in his video reviews.
"Laurie was right in a way," Meninga said.
"We did jump the marker a few times in the game.
"We just want it refereed fair. We want an even share of the referee's decisions throughout the game."
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