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Pearce facing last Origin chance: Tunks

The State of Origin decider represents the last chance saloon for a batch of NSW regulars, with an eighth straight series loss likely to kick-start yet another Blues makeover.
Pearce facing last Origin chance: Tunks
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, July 5 AAP - The State of Origin decider represents the last chance saloon for a batch of NSW regulars, with an eighth straight series loss likely to kick-start yet another Blues makeover.

That is the opinion of former Test and NSW hard man Peter Tunks, who claimed the likes of under-fire halfback Mitchell Pearce and back-rower Anthony Watmough had just one more shot at bringing down the Maroons dynasty.

The NSW side for game three to be named on Sunday is expected to closely resemble the side which was victorious in the series opener, with Jarryd Hayne and James Tamou set to return from injury and suspension respectively.

"If Laurie (NSW coach Laurie Daley) isn't successful in game three, he's going to have to bring some changes in (next year) and the most important is obviously the halfback," Tunks told AAP.

"But it's not just Mitchell Pearce that's going to be under the microscope, there will be a few others."

Pearce, however, is the one on which the blowtorch will be well and truly focused.

Should the Maroons beat NSW in Origin III at ANZ Stadium on July 17, Pearce would become the first NSW halfback to be a part of five series losses.

The pressure on Pearce is not simply a result of his own performances at Origin level - where he has struggled to dominate games - but also the form of South Sydney playmaker Adam Reynolds.

Backing up from a 2012 campaign in which he was crowned rookie of the year, Reynolds has been among the form halfbacks this season, with his Rabbitohs a long way ahead at the top of the NRL ladder.

As the incumbent in a side which went within a point of beating Queensland to last year's title, Pearce was anointed by Daley as the Blues first-choice No.7 well before this year's series began.

Tunks agreed Pearce deserved to hold his place for the series finale, but admitted his chances were running out.

"Laurie made a decision earlier in the year that Mitchell Pearce was going to be his halfback - he's not going to change from that," Tunks said.

"If you spoke to 100 people in the game, I think 80 of them would think that Reynolds was a better halfback than Mitchell Pearce.

"Just about everybody would agree that Adam Reynolds moved to a new level with his game this year.

"People were talking about replacing Pearce with him for game three, which I think would be unfair - to parachute a guy in for his first Origin game in the most intense game in eight years."

Tunks however denied Pearce was the reason the Blues went down in game two, instead pointing to the brilliant game plan of the Queensland coaching staff which targeted halves partner James Maloney in defence.




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