Valentine Holmes has admitted he is nervous about defending at centre in State of Origin for the first time as he prepares for the crucial task of shutting down Kotoni Staggs.
Holmes will play his first game in the centres for Queensland on Wednesday night, with all of his previous 10 games having come on the wing or at fullback.
The Maroons star has impressed in his first full season in the position in North Queensland this year, proving to be one of the best defensive centres in the NRL.
With Holmes defending inside Murray Taulagi, the Cowboys’ left edge is ranked in the top four in the competition defensively while letting in less than a try a game.
But Holmes is well aware Origin is a different beast, and has some trepidations ahead of the Accor Stadium opener.
“I’m comfortable in the sense I know where I am playing. But it is a new position for me in this arena,” Holmes told reporters on the Gold Coast.
“So I am a little nervous.
“But I have (Cameron) Munster inside me, Xavier Coates there.
“And we all know how good Munster is defensively, he is always working his backside off. He will always cover me if I make the wrong decision.”
Holmes does at least have form on Staggs.
While the Brisbane centre has found game in the past two months, he was dominated by Holmes in the Cowboys’ 38-12 flogging of Brisbane in round three.
After Staggs shoved him aside once early close to the line, Holmes only offered his opposite number space again on other occasion while also getting the better of him in attack.
“He’s a handful,” Holmes said.
“It’s just about getting up in his face early and try and shut down his space. He wants the ball early and wants to run.
“He is very powerful and very quick.
“I just have to try and cut down his time as much as I can without pulling myself too far out of the line.
“We have to stick to our defensive structures. But I also want to make sure I am doing a good job on him.”
Meanwhile, any concerns Billy Slater had over both defensive and attacking combination have quickly been allayed with two opposed sessions in camp.
Thursday’s run against Ipswich was followed by another hit out with Souths Logan on Saturday, doubling the usual amount of opposed runs from pre-COVID times when bubbles were non-existent.
That approach is in direct contrast to NSW, who are yet to run one full opposed session in their camp.
“To get a good solid 13 against us and put us under pressure and allow us to put our shape together was really good,” Holmes said.
“Especially for the young guys coming in.”