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Wighton backed for Blues Origin recall

3 minute read

Andrew Johns expects Brad Fittler to recall Jack Wighton on the bench for the Origin decider after he missed game two with COVID-19.

BRAD FITTLER. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Latrell Mitchell may have eased Brad Fittler's centres headache by ruling himself out of the State of Origin decider but the NSW coach must still decide whether to stick or twist.

Blues legend Andrew Johns thinks he will stick.

Mitchell made a strong NRL return for South Sydney on Saturday night against Parramatta but then surprised by withdrawing from contention for Origin III, having been absent from the Rabbitohs since round five while rehabbing a hamstring injury.

It still leaves Fittler with a trio of centres to choose from when he names his team on Monday, as the Blues aim to win a decider in Brisbane for the first time since 2005.

Fittler has rarely changed a winning side and would usually be expected to stick with the incumbent pairing of Canterbury's Matt Burton and Penrith's Stephen Crichton.

But the wildcard is Canberra's Jack Wighton, who was one of the Blues' best in the series opener and only ceded his place at left centre to Burton after catching COVID-19.

Burton thrived on debut in Origin II, with his kicking game relieving the pressure on Blues halfback Nathan Cleary, while Crichton enjoys a good chemistry with the Penrith-heavy NSW side.

Johns said he would pick Wighton to return via the bench ahead of Cronulla's Siosifa Talakai.

"I think he'll come back in (at the expense of) Talakai," Johns told Network Nine's Sunday Footy Show.

"I think they'll keep the one-two punch of Api (Koroisau) and Damien Cook at dummy half.

"Jack was NSW's best player in game one by a mile but unfortunately for Jack, Burton has gone in that position.

"Jack will be in the 17 somewhere. I doubt Jack could play on the right side (for Crichton) and I don't think you can change that team."

Picking Wighton on the bench would leave Fittler with just two forwards - Angus Crichton and Junior Paulo on his interchange.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart, meanwhile, has suggested Wighton should walk straight back into the side at the expense of Crichton.

Wighton didn't help his cause on Sunday, making four errors as they Raiders fell to a 12-10 loss at the hands of St George Illawarra.

"I had a few errors in these conditions and it's something I've got to fix," Wighton told Channel 9.

"It's always an honour to pull that jersey on, anywhere he (Fittler) puts me on (I'll play). If not, I'll have some more time with my family."

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