Brisbane Broncos halfback Peter Wallace has won the contentious halfback spot New South Wales for the opening match in Australian rugby league’s State-of-Origin series, the 22-year-old playmaker earning his Origin debut in a halves pairing with Australia five-eighth Greg Bird.
|Peter Wallace will face plenty of teammates |
when he runs out for the Blues [GALLO/GETTY]
Wallace, 22, got the nod ahead of seasoned veterans Brett Finch, Matt Orford and Jarrod Mullen after utility Kurt Gidley was ruled out with a fractured cheek bone.
Bird, who plays lock at club level but has filled in as pivot for Australia in its last two test matches, was given the No. 6 jersey ahead of Braith Anasta.
Manly prop Brent Kite missed selection for the the Blues only four days after playing in Australia's win over New Zealand in a rugby league test.
Blues selectors preferred Brett White and Ben Cross to Kite for the May 21 interstate clash in Sydney, considered the highlight of the Australian rugby league calendar.
"Brent played for Australia three or four days ago, he was in our discussions for a long time but this is a team we think will do the best job in the way we want to play the game,'' coach Craig Bellamy said.
Gold Coast forward Anthony Laffranchi earned a deserved Origin debut in an interchange bench that also includes veteran backrower Craig Fitzgibbon, who missed the last two Origin series, Anthony Tupou and Ben Hornby.
New South Wales selectors made nine changes to the lineup that won the last game of last year's 2-1 series loss to Queensland.
Prince misses out for Maroons
Queensland selectors overlooked Gold Coast Titans halfback Scott Prince, arguably the most in-form player in the National Rugby League, and picked Karmichael Hunt at five-eighth to fill in for injured skipper Darren Lockyer.
A late push for Prince to partner Australia halfback Johnathan Thurston in a new look halves pairing was ignored, with Thurston holding the No. 7 jersey and Hunt switching from fullback to make room for Billy Slater at the back.
Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris said it was a tough decision, but selectors felt that Prince was a halfback and Hunt's versatility made him a better option as a makeshift five-eighth.
"It's a big job to fill obviously with a player of Darren's caliber not available, we feel (Hunt) has played a fair bit of that position during the game and he's very strong in defence,'' Morris said.
"We think he'll be a good mix with Johnathan.''
Morris said he felt for Prince but pointed out the Titans' play maker was a genuine halfback and Hunt's versatility made him a better option for the five-eighth position.
Carl Webb won a starting spot in the front row along side hooker Cameron Smith, who took over as Australia captain after Lockyer withdrew last week, and now takes on the Queensland captaincy.
New South Wales: Brett Stewart, Jarryd Hayne, Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper, Anthony Quinn, Greg Bird, Peter Wallace, Brett White, Danny Buderus (captain), Ben Cross, Ryan Hoffman, Willie Mason, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Anthony Laffranchi, Anthony Tupou, Craig Fitzgibbon, Ben Hornby.
Queensland: Billy Slater, Brent Tate, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt, Johnathan Thurston, Carl Webb, Cameron Smith (captain), Petero Civoniceva, Michael Crocker, Sam Thaiday, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: PJ Marsh, Ben Hannant, Nate Myles, Jacob Lillyman.