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36 hours ago
Sydney Roosters captain Craig Fitzgibbon isn't surprised Mitchell Pearce is being linked to the NSW No.7 jersey, but fears the youngster may not be ready for rugby league's most unforgiving arena.
Pearce, 19, is involved in a wide-open race for the halfback spot in this year's State of Origin series, which starts on May 21.
Parramatta's Brett Finch, Brisbane's Peter Wallace, Canberra's Todd Carney and Newcastle pair Kurt Gidley and Jarrod Mullen are among those also tipped to be in the running.
Pearce's claims for the job have increased with a string of fine performances for the in-form Roosters in the opening five rounds.
But Fitzgibbon, while tipping Pearce to have a long representative career ahead of him, is unsure if his teammate should be thrust into Origin so soon with only 21 NRL games under his belt.
"You can't deny how well he's playing and you can't deny he's a super talent," Fitzgibbon said.
"He's going to be a mainstay you would think in representative footy to come, provided he goes into it the right way and he gets protected a little bit.
"Whether he's ready for Origin or not, well I guess the only way you're going to find out is if he plays it, but I think maybe a few (more) games under his belt might help him a bit better to be honest."
Fitzgibbon, a veteran of eight Origin games himself, feared blooding Pearce for rep footy too soon could prove disastrous.
"I'd hate to see what would happen if he got in there and it didn't quite work out for him. It might damage him and he doesn't deserve that," Fitzgibbon said.
"If he keeps developing the way he's developing you would think sooner or later he's going to be playing it anyway.
"So it's hard for a young kid not to get excited, because all you want is to play State of Origin and Test football, but hopefully they can make the right decision on whether he's ready or not.
"If they do decide to throw him in though, I reckon he'll be up for it."
Fitzgibbon, who is in fine form for the Roosters, said he would not make a decision on his own future for at least another "four, five or six" weeks.
With the Roosters battling to re-sign a host of off-contract younger stars, the former Test forward could be forced out of the club after nine years of service.
"I'm still a little while away from any decision being made on whether I decide to retire or play on so at the moment I've just got to concentrate on playing good footy," Fitzgibbon said.
"I'm confident if I am playing good footy and things are going well the right thing will come to me.
"I'm not under any pressure from the club and I'm not putting any pressure on the club."