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Young giants at the centre of final

SKILLED Park's foundations are safe for now.

With giant young centres Israel Folau (Brisbane) and Sam Tagataese (Gold Coast) both confirmed starters on the left side for Saturday night's sellout NRL qualifying final, a heavyweight confrontation has been averted.

A full-blooded collision between Folau (196cm and 105kgs) and apprentice centre Tagataese (193cm and 101kg) would create enough shock waves to register on the Richter Scale.

However it's unlikely they will get the opportunity playing on opposite sides of the ground.

The former Melbourne Storm roommates still keep in touch.

They spoke last week about the possibility of meeting up again in the finals and it has eventuated.

A revelation since Titans coach John Cartwright followed a growing trend to play big, mobile back-rowers in the centres, Tagataese jokingly suggested Folau was “lucky” to be on the other side of the field and not facing him on Saturday night.

“Lucky he's on the other side,” grinned Tagataese.

Lucky for who?

“For him ..... nah, lucky for me, for me,” he added quickly.

“He'll still probably come looking for me the big unit.”

Jokes aside, 22 year-old New Zealand-born Tagataese was always going to face a daunting finals debut.

His consolation prize for missing out on Folau is an 80-minute battle with Origin and Test centre Justin Hodges.

Unlike Folau who likes to run over the top of opponents, Hodges prefers to get on the outside of his opponents and show them up with his fend and foot work.

Tagataese said he would need to be “fairly aggressive” in defending the dangerous Hodges.

“It's going to be a big test for me,” said the softly spoken Tagataese. “He's a big lad as well and he's got an awkward way of running as well.

“He's deceptively quick.”

Asked if he would need to get in Hodges' face he said: “Yeah ... but he's a strong guy so I will need to be fairly aggressive with him and see how that goes.”

Tagataese said Brisbane had strike weapons across the paddock and called on his forwards to “muscle up” to lessen their involvement.

Meanwhile Mat Rogers was named yesterday at five-eighth but will have to pass a fitness test.



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