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Canberra’s Jack Wighton backed for Blues Origin recall

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Latrell Mitchell may have eased Brad Fittler’s headache by excluding himself from the State of Origin decider, but the NSW coach has yet to decide whether to hold or spin.

Blues legend Andrew Johns thinks he’ll stay.

Mitchell made a strong NRL return for South Sydney on Saturday night against Parramatta, but surprised when he withdrew from the Origin III battle, having been absent from the Rabbitohs since round five while he was recovering from a hamstring injury.

It still leaves Fittler with a trio of centers to choose from when he names his team on Monday, as the Blues look to make a decision in Brisbane for the first time since 2005.

Fittler has rarely changed a winning side and is normally expected to stick with the existing combination of Matt Burton from Canterbury and Stephen Crichton from Penrith.

But the wildcard is Canberra’s Jack Wighton, who was one of the Blues’ best in the series opener, only relinquishing his left-center place to Burton after contracting COVID-19.

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

Johns said he would choose Wighton to return over the bank for Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai.

“I think he will come back (at the expense of) Talakai,” Johns told Network Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“I think they’re keeping Api (Koroisau) and Damien Cook’s one-two punch on the dummy half.

“Jack was NSW’s best player in the game, but unfortunately for Jack, Burton has moved into that position.

“Jack will be in his 17s sometime. I doubt Jack could play on the right (for Crichton) and I don’t think you can change that team.”

If he were to pick Wighton on the bench, Fittler would be left with just two attackers – Angus Crichton and Junior Paulo on his move.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart, meanwhile, has suggested that Wighton should walk straight to the side.

Wighton was set to play for the Raiders on Sunday against St George Illawarra, with Stuart claiming in advance that the five-eighth had done enough to earn an automatic recall at Crichton’s expense.

“I think they can move Burton to the other (right) side and pull Jack to the left,” Stuart said.

“I don’t think it’s a difficult decision at all. I think it makes the team stronger to be honest.”

By George Clarke in Sydney

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