League: Kiwi Tamou set to appear for Kangaroos

James Tamou of the Cowboys has represented New Zealand Maori and the Junior Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images
James Tamou of the Cowboys has represented New Zealand Maori and the Junior Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images

Ricky Stuart's plans for who will pilot NSW in their bid to end Queensland's six-year State of Origin dominance will become clearer on Sunday, when teams are announced for the City-Country match, while James Tamou is tipped to make his Test debut for Australia.

Todd Carney appears set to make his Origin debut for NSW in his preferred position of five-eighth, which is why he will be picked there for Country when the teams are named on Sunday despite starting the season at halfback for Cronulla.

As a result, the remaining Country Origin halves - all of whom are also five-eighths - are fighting for the vacant No.7 jersey where they will look to outdo City's Mitchell Pearce, the incumbent Blues halfback.

This has left St George Illawarra five-eighth Jamie Soward, the Blues No.6 last year, on the outer as his game is not suited to first receiver, opening the door for Newcastle's Jarrod Mullen and Warriors' playmaker James Maloney.

Mullen picked up a cork to his left thigh in the Knights' loss to the Dragons on Friday night, but is expected to recover in time for the contest in Mudgee on Sunday week.

Canberra's Terry Campese's fading chances of gaining Country selection were scuppered on Friday night when he picked up a medial ligament injury in his left knee.

City's five-eighth stocks are at an all-time low, with the untimely groin injury to in-form Brisbane half Peter Wallace robbing him of a chance to push for an Origin spot and leaving Brad Fittler's men particularly thin.

City selectors have toyed with the idea of moving Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne to partner Pearce, although South Sydney's John Sutton or Warrior Feleti Mateo seem the more likely option.

Soward is not expected to even feature on the Country bench, with Melbourne's Ryan Hinchcliffe the preferred utility player while Michael Ennis' spot in the team is reliant on whether selectors are comfortable letting former Blues skipper Danny Buderus sit the match out.

Despite that, Soward believes his chances of playing Origin One in Melbourne are not finished.

"I'd be disappointed if I miss out (for Country) but that's not the end of my chances," Soward said on Friday night.

"Ricky knows what I can do."

New Zealand-born prop Tamou is in line to face the Kiwis on Friday, leaving City to go with a prop rotation including Keith Galloway, Tim Mannah and Jason King with Penrith's Tim Grant still sidelined with a calf injury.

Country's front-row will come from Kade Snowden, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Tariq Sims and Dragons trio Trent Merrin, Michael Weyman and Dan Hunt - who all outperformed Snowden on Friday night.

Merrin said he would be disappointed if the Dragons props didn't land at least two spots in the Country pack.

"I'd hope that would happen," Merrin told AAP.

"We'll see what the selectors want, but you set those goals that you try to achieve each year and it would be great to get back in the loop."

Country could also struggle to find a fullback - with Manly's Brett Stewart and Canberra's Josh Dugan injured, and Brett Morris likely to be drafted into the Australian team to partner Akuila Uate on the wings after outplaying Darius Boyd on Friday night.

- AAP

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