Playmaker Mitchell Pearce has been recalled while Josh Jackson and David Klemmer will debut in a revamped NSW team to open the Blues’ State of Origin shield defence.
With Paul Gallen out injured, hooker Robbie Farah will captain the Blues named on Tuesday for game one at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on May 27, leading a team with six changes from the side that finished the breakthrough 2014 series.
Unable to steer the team to a series win when used in six previous years, Sydney Roosters halfback Pearce’s recent form demanded another chance.
“He’s an important member of not only the Roosters family, but the NSW family,” coach Laurie Daley said at The Star.
“He’s a guy that I’ve got a lot of time for, and I know that he can add value to this team. He’s a guy that everyone’s excited to play with.”
Pearce was named at five eighth, replacing Josh Reynolds and forming a new halves combination with out-of-sorts halfback incumbent Trent Hodkinson. They are expected to play on either side of the ruck.
Canterbury forwards Jackson and Klemmer get their debuts and Andrew Fifita is recalled in the absence of veterans Gallen, Greg Bird (suspended) and Luke Lewis (omitted).
Lewis, a veteran of 17 Origins, was left out just two weeks after playing for Australia in the Anzac Test and Anthony Watmough also missed out, with Daley looking to rejuvenate the Blues pack.
Josh Dugan switches from centre to fullback to replace the departed Jarryd Hayne.
Sydney Roosters centre Michael Jennings and winger Daniel Tupou are set to play on the left edge with Josh Morris and Will Hopoate on the right.
Aaron Woods and James Tamou are the starting front-rowers while Beau Scott and Ryan Hoffman again make up a seasoned back row and Jackson starts at lock with a bench featuring plenty of size, power and mobility in Klemmer, Fifita, Trent Merrin and Boyd Cordner.
For Farah, it will be the second time he leads his state after taking the captaincy duties when Gallen was ruled out through injury in the first game of the 2010 series.
“It’s always a great honour to have the opportunity to captain your state,” he said.
“The last time I had a chance Gallen got ruled out on the Friday or Saturday and I stepped in.
“So this time I come into camp from the start as skipper and with a good core senior group around me I’m sure we can give ourselves the best opportunity for next Wednesday night.”
NSW team: Josh Dugan, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Will Hopoate, Mitchell Pearce, Trent Hodkinson, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (capt), James Tamou, Ryan Hoffman, Beau Scott, Josh Jackson. Interchange: Boyd Cordner, Trent Merrin, Andrew Fifita, David Klemmer.