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State of Origin II: Skipper Paul Gallen to move up front for NSW Blues

On the move: Gallen breaks the line in Origin I.

On the move: Gallen breaks the line in Origin I. Photo: Getty Images

NSW captain Paul Gallen is set to move up front in Origin II after Blues coach Laurie Daley decided to opt for Josh Dugan at right-centre rather than shift backrower Beau Scott wider in defence.

Dugan is understood to have convinced Daley he is the man to replace the injured Josh Morris (knee) with his three-try haul for St George Illawarra in Saturday's night's 30-0 demolition of a Cronulla team misssing Gallen, NSW bench forward Luke Lewis and another 11 regular first-graders.

As a result, Parramatta centre Will Hopoate is expected to edge out Newcastle's James McManus for the right-wing berth made vacant by the dislocated and fractured shoulder injury suffered by Brett Morris in the Blues' series opening 12-8 win over Queensland at Suncorp Stadium.

The decision to bring in two new faces to replace the Morris twins means that a forward has to make way for Greg Bird, who was unavailable for Origin I through suspension, and either Trent Merrin or Tony Williams are tipped to be the unlucky player omitted in the only unforced change to the squad.

Daley had planned to pick Gallen in the front row for Origin I until Bird was suspended and Roosters international Boyd Cordner ruled out with a knee injury. Gallen started the match at lock but played like a front-rower, making more runs (22) and more metres (170m) than any forward on either team.

According to a statistical breakdown of Gallen's performance by SportsData, 20 of Gallen's runs were hit-ups and he made 160m from his charges with the ball. The Sharks skipper also led the way for metres after contact (43m) among the NSW and Queensland forwards, and made two tackle breaks, offloading both times.

Without the ball, Gallen made eight supporting runs and five decoy runs in a 70-minute effort, in which he also completed 33 tackles. With Gallen to start in the front row, Australian prop James Tamou is likely to shift to the interchange bench as he did in last month's trans-Tasman Test against New Zealand. 

The Blues side will be announced at a corporate lunch at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday but Fairfax Media understands Tamou will join Lewis, Anthony Watmough and Merrin or Williams on the interchange bench. Merrin made 40m from seven hit-ups in Origin I and had another seven supporting or decoy runs, while completing 18 tackles in his 34 minutes of action.

Williams gained 39m from four runs and made one decoy run and three supporting runs, as well as eight tackles, in the 25 minutes he was on the field. With Gallen (neck) and Lewis (knee) missing Cronulla's match on Saturday night, Daley wanted to check on the health of his players before announcing the team, but Fairfax Media understands he has settled on a line-up he believes can end the Maroons' eight-year winning streak at ANZ Stadium on June 18.

The biggest selection issue for Daley has been who will play opposite Greg Inglis at right-centre and it is believed he will consider swapping star fullback Jarryd Hayne with Dugan at stages of the match if necessary. Dugan played fullback in the second and third matches of last year's series, after Hayne was ruled out with a hamstring injury, and played just his second game at centre for the Dragons on Saturday night. Afterwards, the 23-year-old was coy about his selection chances, but St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor, who will run the messages for the Blues in game two, said Dugan would be comfortable playing centre in Origin.

“That’s up to Laurie and the selectors," Dugan said. "I just have to wait for selection. I’m not going to worry about it too much. If the call does come, I’ll do my best for the state. It’ll mean the world. That’s what you strive for as a player."

Asked if he would tell Daley that Dugan can play centre, McGregor said simply: "I always tell the truth."

NSW team (likely): Jarryd Hayne; Will Hopoate, Josh Dugan, Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou; Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson; Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, Paul Gallen (c), Ryan Hoffman, Beau Scott, Greg Bird. James Tamou, Anthony Watmough, Luke Lewis, Tony Williams/Trent Merrin.

11 comments so far

  • What is the fascination in Dugan ? Plays one game at centre against the team running last which fielded essentially a reserve grade side. Daley should be trying to sweet-talk Jamie Lyons, just like Wayne Bennett did to bring back Alfie, for one last game and be part of a blues folklore that broke the maroons domination.

    Even more ludicrous is the suggestion that Dugan would swap with Hayne. If Dugan is so good at centre he should stay there rather than weakening another position.

    Date and time
    June 08, 2014, 6:57PM
    • Dugan is a natural talent and he’d have the grit and work ethic of any of the game I NSW side. However, is the position of fullback open? If you were to move Hayne from fullback there would be a few punters having a major spew. IId be recruiting the best positional player of any of the vacant positions, not trying to fit good players into the side using a shoe horn method.

      Regard Lyon, absolutely. Why cant anyone move him off his position regarding retirement from rep footy? Weve got a Manly great on staff in NSW Origin camp in Fulton, hasnt HE got any influence? Why hasn’t an ‘impassioned plea’ campaign been launched by one of the major Sydney media outlets? Front page: Jamie Lyon we need you. Uncle Sam style.

      And I don’t think Pat Richards should be overlooked just because of his age.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 10:39AM
    • Tackle busts per game: Mansour 7.1, Dugan 5.9, Milford 5.6, Hayne 5.1, Gagai 5, Inglis 4.9, Nofoaluma 4.7, Hurrell 4.3

      Dugan's also making 143m per game on average. He started the season late due to injury, and so his figures are down 10 or 20% on last year, but are improving back to that level.

      Sports Fan
      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 1:26PM
  • Tony Williams has never become comfortable in the forwards - big and strong but doesn't do enough and probably still belongs on the wing. Merrin has to stay, he's got some mongrel.

    James D
    Chipping Norton
    Date and time
    June 08, 2014, 8:17PM
    • You got it, 'Mongrel' is what's needed in Origin', well said!

      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 9:51PM
  • Laurie Daley has endured a tough trot with selection issues. However he has a calm, confident, and experienced head. If Hopoate & Tupou play at their potential, and Hayne plays to his current level, The Blues will have a very special night.

    Pistol Pete
    Date and time
    June 08, 2014, 8:55PM
    • Isn't it funny -- when Pearce & Maloney were flavour of the month, the catch-cry was that playing in the big games, such as grand finals, was the real test of who should be selected for Origin. But now, a good game by a competent player against a side which is not only bottom of the ladder, but is also missing 11+ players, can be taken as proof that he's Origin material. This does make some of us wonder what the selection criteria really are.

      Lewis Winders
      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 12:41AM
      • Experience in big, tough, high-pressure, energy-sapping games is important, full stop. But trying to treat centre the same as half-back is confusing the issue. Big game results are extra important for the spine, and particularly for the 7. Dugan does have big game experience, has performed as one of the Blues' best in the past, and has the size and power that's so valuable in Origin.

        Sports Fan
        Date and time
        June 09, 2014, 1:31PM
    • The way Dugan runs is very elusive, and is very hard to tackle. This is pretty much how Justin Hodges remains a rep player, so allowing Dugan dummy-half runs in the same vein would be great. I thought his defense at centre last game in a losing side wasn';t that bad, he had a go, so I reckon he should get a shot before Beau Scott.

      Too Far North
      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 10:58AM
      • Big mistake picking Duggan, Qld will target Duggan all night and will win if he plays. I like the Lyons idea, they should give it a try.

        Date and time
        June 09, 2014, 12:35PM

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