Who will partner Mitchell Pearce for Origin?

Up to six NSW five-eighth contenders are set to battle it out for the No.6 jersey in the City-Country clash, with Blues coach Laurie Daley planning to rest players considered certain selections to ensure the match is a legitimate Origin trial.

Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce, Canterbury centre Josh Morris and Newcastle utility Kurt Gidley are likely to be spared from duty in the May 4 match at Dubbo as their positions are all but guaranteed, and injured Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah would also be in that position if he was fit.

However, the No.6 jersey is far from settled and City and Country may each have three players vying for the role in their squads, including the incumbent NSW five-eighth James Maloney.

The Roosters playmaker will start at five-eighth for Country and is expected to be partnered at the scrumbase by Newcastle's Jarrod Mullen or Cronulla's Todd Carney - although in-form Gold Coast halfback Albert Kelly is also under consideration to wear the No.7 jersey.

By resting Pearce, Daley will get the chance to assess South Sydney's Adam Reynolds at halfback for City, while Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds will go head to head with Maloney in a duel that could decide who plays there for NSW.

Rabbitohs skipper John Sutton is also expected to get some game time at five-eighth but he is likely to selected at lock for City, while Titans playmaker Aiden Sezar may be another given the chance to show his wares for the Blues No.6 jersey.

Other positions yet to be settled in the NSW side for the opening Origin match at Suncorp Stadium on May 28 include fullback, left wing,right centre and hooker if Farah is unfit.

Canterbury skipper Michael Ennis and St George Illawarra hooker Mitch Rein may both be selected for Country, while Parramatta's Nathan Peats is expected to be the City hooker.

Even if Farah is fit to play Origin, Gidley is likely to spend more time at dummy half than he usually would and after a string of injuries in the past two seasons there would appear to be little sense in him playing for Country.

Daley must decide whether to pick Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne at fullback or right centre and his decision may depend on how Roosters centre Michael Jennings performs for City in comparison to either Dragons fullback Josh Dugan or Manly custodian Brett Steward in the Country team.

Hayne, left winger Brett Morris, backrowers Paul Gallen, Greg Bird and Anthony Watmough, and props James Tamou and Andrew Fifita are all expected to be chosen in the Australian team named earlier next Sunday and will therefore be unavailable for City-Country selection.

However, there is an injury cloud over Watmough after he aggravated an elbow problem in the Sea Eagles controversial 26-21 win over North Queensland last Friday night and did not return after halftime and Roosters backrower Boyd Cordner may come into the Test team in his place.

Sharks backrower Luke Lewis will miss the Test but is expected to play for NSW if he makes a successful return in coming weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery and radiation to kill off an unwanted hormone called thyroglobulin that was being produced by his body since he had treatment for thyroid cancer in 2012.

If Maloney loses his five-eighth spot, goalkicking may give Wests Tigers veteran Pat Richards an advantage for the right wing berth ahead of Manly's Jorge Taufua and Newcastle's James McManus, while Jennings could be another option if Daley decides to play Hayne in the centres.

Tigers prop Aaron Woods is set to retain the NSW jersey he earned in Origin II and III of last year's series after a strong start to the season.

The story Who will partner Mitchell Pearce for Origin? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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