Blues set to unleash big boppers
New South Wales coach Laurie Daley is set to use three big boppers off the bench for June 1's Origin series opener, though there are still doubts over what will happen if hooker Robbie Farah needs a spell during the game.
James Tamou, David Klemmer and Andrew Fifita are set to start the match from the pine with captain Paul Gallen at prop, Greg Bird at lock and both specialist second-rowers Boyd Cordner and Josh Jackson on the field.
Robbie Farah, having brushed off a head knock that caused him to miss the final Wests Tigers club game before Origin, is aiming to play 80 minutes but there is a lack of viable dummy-half options if he needs a rest or cops an injury.
Speaking to media in camp in Coffs Harbour on Thursday immediately before the team's second field session and first contact session, Farah said it has not yet been discussed who would slot into hooker if he came off but opted for centre Dylan Walker – set to take the bench utility role – or Jackson or Bird as possibilities.
"We've got Walks there so I'm not sure what kind of role we'll play him in yet. That will evolve as the week goes on," Farah said.
"We didn't have a hooker on the bench last year either and we threw Josh Jackson in just there at training just at dummy half in case something happened for him to be ready.
"You've got someone like Greg Bird that could jump in there at a heartbeat. The service might not be that crisp but you know those guys will tackle their arse off in the middle and they'll be fine there if something does happen."
Woods confirmed to journalists after the session that it will be "the three big boppers" on the bench to start the game but wasn't sure what it would mean for the workload of the starting players.
The team's structures has been discussed in the Blues initial 'walkthough' session on Wednesday ahead of their first field session, and Farah praised the influence new halves pairing James Maloney and Adam Reynolds had had so far.
"As a group I guess [Wednesday] was a day of learning. Not just the spine but the other debutants to learn the structures we've implemented here over the last few years," he said.
"We had a bit of a walkthrough in the morning which was a bit of a low key training session just for everyone to kind of learn the plays and ask any questions they had and in the afternoon we came back out and had a full training session which was a lot more fluent which was good."
Asked if going in with an untested spine was a bit of a risk, he said it would be exciting to see what the playmakers could produce as a group.
"We've got a week to come together which is not a lot of time but we're working hard at that and I'm excited to see what we can achieve as a group," he said, adding the halves had taken plenty of ownership over how the team would play.
"We landed here in Coffs and as a group we kind of sat down and came up with a structure and how we wanted to play and all those guys had a bit of input into it as well," he said.
"It's important you allow them a bit of input and make sure they're comfortable and they've got a certain style of the way they like to play and it's important to let them have that influence.
"We nutted that out as a group between the four of us and I guess we'll continue to ask questions and pick each other's brains. Every individual's got little things they have in their game we need to be comfortable with and allow them to showcase their talent in that way."
Josh Dugan – the Blues' best last year at fullback – has moved to centre to partner close mate and his right edge Test partner Blake Ferguson on the Blues' right edge and says that Test experience and his own pre-season at centre will have him fully prepared for the new role.
"I've come in a little bit better prepared this year playing most of the pre-season at centre and playing a few games there and also the test there as well. I've come in a bit better prepared and I've got someone like [Josh Morris] helping me as well," Dugan said.
Of Ferguson's wing role he added: "we got the chance to do it at Test level and now we get to do it at state and I'm looking forward to running out next to him.
"He was saying to me he's played wing the last couple of weeks because of injuries or whatever at the Roosters. He's a great player, he's in great form and definitely deserves to be here."