Blues leaning towards Wighton for No.6 jersey

NSW officials are leaning towards Jack Wighton in the race against Penrith’s Jerome Luai for the Blues’ five-eighth spot for the State of Origin opener.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald Blues coach Brad Fittler wants to include both Wighton and Luai in his 17, but has the Canberra five-eighth pencilled in alongside Nathan Cleary in the halves.

Luai is the favourite for the utility bench spot after the concussion to Ryan Papenhuyzen that has ruled the Storm No.1 out of calculations for the first game of the series.

While Wighton has struggled to recapture his form from last season, Luai has been in hot form for the undefeated Panthers racking up 14 try assists to Wighton’s three. He also leads the NRL in tackle breaks, offloads, line breaks, line break assists and forced drop outs. Luai plays week in week out with Cleary yet it’s understood Blues officials will give Wighton a chance ahead of the Penrith star because of his experience at that level.

Fittler will finalise his team over the weekend, with an official announcement to be made late Sunday night when the Blues begin to gather in Coogee for their 10-day camp leading into the Melbourne opener.

The NRL is making contingency plans around the venue for game one which is scheduled to be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 9. The NRL will stage the opening game of the series at a neutral venue if a recent outbreak in Victoria prohibits a crowd from attending the match.

The Adelaide Oval has offered to host Origin I if restrictions are placed on crowd numbers with the the governing body looking for a “neutral state” to host the event.

“We will be ready for whatever situation emerges,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said at the launch of Indigenous round.

“If we need to increase the protocols we will and if we need to consider contingency planning for where we play Origin I, we will. We would have to see a significant increase in the number of community cases and a potential lockdown for Victoria before we would consider that.”

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