Cleary and Pearce to form Origin II Blues partnership
THE NSW Blues' brains trust have devised a new halves pairing where Nathan Cleary survives the axe by being named at five-eighth and the NRL's form playmaker, Mitchell Pearce, is given the keys to the side.
The Blues have been busily thrashing out potential halves combinations aimed at locking the series at 1-1 and Fox League has learned they have settled on Pearce to wear the No.7 jumper and control the side.
Cleary will remain in the side but wear the No.6 jumper.
With a short preparation of only six days leading into Origin II, the decision to select Pearce as halfback and retain Cleary means minimal changes to the Blues' already existing structure.
Pearce will defend on the left, where Cody Walker was for Origin I, but will full-field when the Blues have the ball.
This means Cleary will remain on the right edge, where his defence is his greatest strength.
The retention of Cleary also means the goalkicking duties do not have to be shifted on to the shoulders of Latrell Mitchell, who has enough to contend with after a poor performance at Suncorp Stadium.
Jack Wighton was the other player under heavy consideration to partner Pearce.
The Raiders' five-eighth is expected to retain his place in the side on the interchange bench and again fill the utility role.
The Pearce-Cleary combination is contingent on both players making it through round 14 without any injury issues - an area that sent the Blues' best-laid plans into chaos leading into the opening game of the series.
On that occasion, Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary was set to be named at five-eighth prior to being concussed against Newcastle, leading to South Sydney pivot Walker being picked in the NSW No.6 jumper.
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