Cowboys player Kane Linnett will line up in the forwards against the Storm.
Cowboys player Kane Linnett will line up in the forwards against the Storm. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

Origin call-ups force Cowboys into reshuffle

COWBOYS coach Paul Green believes it's a "shame" a potential blockbuster battle at Melbourne has been torn apart by Origin selection, which has forced him to name centre Kane Linnett in the back row for Saturday's clash.

Nine players from both teams have been picked in the Queensland side for game two next Wednesday, denying Victorians a chance to see the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith lock horns.

After a false start last week after Thurston returned from injury, Kyle Laybutt will make his NRL debut at five-eighth, with Ray Thompson (knee) back at halfback.

Javid Bowen has been recalled to the centres and Corey Jensen to the bench, with Scott Bolton to captain the Cowboys for the first time.

Cowboys-Storm games are generally one of the NRL's blue-chip fixtures, with plenty of eyebrows raised this week on why it was scheduled in a week where the biggest names are unavailable.

"I think if you look at the Origin and Test players it could have been a marquee game for Melbourne, so it's probably disappointing for their fans from that point of view," Green said.

"They could have had a chance to see some great players going at it, and we've had some close contests in recent years too.

"It's a shame but it is what it is, and we'll get on with it.

"We're probably lucky in a way we're playing Melbourne because they're in the same boat and it's not an excuse for either team."

Green has no doubt Linnett has the size and defensive prowess to make a fist of moving one spot closer to the ruck.

The 28-year-old has played 157 games of his 160 games at centre, with three on the wing.

"It's somewhere where all good centres end up. I'm not suggesting Kane's getting long in the tooth, but given the guys out we need to pick our best 17 and that's probably what works best for us.

"He's got the size to do it and he's a good defender, I'm sure he'll do a good job.

"When I spoke to Kane about playing there, he was fine. He understands during this time we need all hands on deck."

Laybutt has earned his chance after strong form for the Blackhawks and travelled with the Cowboys to last week's 32-6 win over Parramatta in Darwin.

"It's a really rewarding part of my job I suppose when you give a young guy an opportunity like that," Green said.