Paul Gallen
Paul Gallen Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

NSW captain Gallen has front row spot for Origin action

DESPITE the fact he is a back-rower, as well as being sidelined with a knee injury for the past two weeks, Paul Gallen will captain New South Wales in Origin I from the front row.

The Blues omitted last year's prop Tim Grant in favour of more mobility for the June 5 game at ANZ Stadium, with the inspirational Sharks skipper proving he can play front row in the 2011 series.

Blues coach Laurie Daley named three debutants, Roosters five-eighth James Maloney, Raiders outside back Blake Ferguson and Sharks prop Andrew Fifita, to play off the bench.

Trent Merrin and Ryan Hoffman will return to the top 17, with Merrin only playing one match last year, and Hoffman last representing his state in 2008.

"Hoffman was unlucky to miss out last year - he's a big-game player. And for Gal to miss three or four weeks before Origin could be an advantage - he'll be fresh and keen," Daley said.