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Peter Wallace has been ruled out of the State of Origin series opener, clearing the way for fiery Titans hooker Nathan Peats to make his NSW debut in game one.
Wallace joined an extended NSW squad in Sydney on Monday morning and had scans and extensive medical treatment on an injured groin in a bid to prove his fitness.
Unfortunately for the veteran rake and for the Panthers, he now faces four to six weeks on the sidelines with a grade two adductor tear.
While Wallace will miss out on what would have been his first Origin match since 2009, it has opened the door for Peats to make his maiden Origin appearance ahead of incumbent Robbie Farah.
“He’s a guy that will fight for everything. He’s a guy that I’ve got a huge amount of respect for. I know he’s a professional and I know he prepares well,” Blues coach Laurie Daley said on Monday night.
“And you know what you’re going to get. Peatsy will get through a huge amount of work, he’ll be competitive, and he’ll give you everything he’s got.”
Peats is one of two debutants named in Blues coach Laurie Daley’s team for the clash against Queensland on May 31. Representative Jake Trbojevic also earned a spot on the bench.
Trbojevic made his Test debut for the Kangaroos in last year’s Four Nations tournament, forming a close relationship with fellow Blues forwards David Klemmer and Aaron Woods.
Sunday night’s call-up was a bitter-sweet moment for the Trbojevic family after younger brother Tom missed out on certain selection after picking up separate knee and ankle injuries just over a week ago.
Penrith’s Matt Moylan was called into the squad, which gathered in Sydney on Monday morning, as standby for the injured Josh Dugan.
However, the Cronulla-bound Dugan is expected to get the green light and take his place in the centres alongside Jarryd Hayne.
Hayne will make his return to the Origin arena after a two-year hiatus playing NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and rugby sevens for Fiji.
He is one of just five players – including Brett Morris, Boyd Cordner, Dugan and Woods – who featured in NSW’s rare series triumph under Daley back in 2014.
Hayne’s future will remain a topic of discussion throughout the Origin camp as he weighs up an option in his favour to remain at the Titans next season before deciding by the May 31 deadline, which coincides with the opening Origin game.
Morris, who has 12 Origin games to his name, returns to the Blues fold after missing last year’s series when a knee injury forced him out of most of the 2016 season.
At the start of the season, Morris was resigned to the fact his representative career was likely over, telling Fairfax Media he was comfortable with the likelihood that he wouldn’t wear the sky blue jersey again.
“That’s OK,” he said in February. “I feel I’ve had a pretty good rep career. So if it was to be that I never play rep footy again, I can hack that.”
Boyd Cordner is the new captain of the Blues following the retirement of Paul Gallen, getting the nod ahead of Woods and Josh Jackson.
James Tedesco hasn’t managed to recapture his old form in 2017 but Daley has placed his faith in the Tigers No.1 to do the job after an impressive maiden Origin series last year.
The Roosters-bound fullback will team up with Blake Ferguson and Morris as a back three combination to match up against Queensland’s Darius Boyd, Corey Oates and Dane Gagai.
The much-maligned Mitchell Pearce returns to the Origin arena after an off-field indiscretion cruelled his chances last season.
He will partner former premiership-winning Roosters halves partner James Maloney, who was one of the first players picked in Daley’s team weeks ago.
Woods, who overcame a hamstring injury to make his return for the Wests Tigers last week, has been given the all clear to play, despite just one game under his belt in the past month.
Controversial Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita retains his position in the Blues line-up, and James Tamou is the obvious omission.
Fifita has been called into the starting side alongside Woods, leaving David Klemmer and Trbojevic on the bench as part of a four-man front row rotation.
Jack Bird, who was impressive in his debut series last year, has pipped Matt Moylan for the utility position on the bench.
Moylan, Melbourne Storm prop Jordan McLean and St George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin will travel with the team to camp in Kingscliff as part of an extended squad.
NSW TEAM FOR GAME ONE
1. James Tedesco 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jarryd Hayne 5. Brett Morris 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Aaron Woods 9. Nathan Peats 10. Andrew Fifita 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Boyd Cordner (c) 13. Josh Jackson
14. David Klemmer 15. Wade Graham 16. Jake Trbojevic ???17. Jack Bird
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