NSW incumbent Daniel Tupou has been challenged to lift his game as he battles to retain his Blues wing spot.
Tupou played all three matches in NSW’s State of Origin series win last year, but has struggled for form in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters so far in 2015.
With NSW’s backline hit hard by injury ahead of the Origin opener in Sydney on May 27, the Blues desperately need an in-form Tupou as they chase back-to-back interstate titles for the first time since 2005.
NSW City Origin coach Brad Fittler says Sunday’s representative clash with Country at Wagga Wagga on Sunday represents a crucial chance for Tupou to ignite his season.
“Daniel Tupou is someone who definitely needs a good performance (in City-Country),” Blues assistant coach Fittler said.
“He was part of the squad last year, he went on and played for Australia.
“It is a good opportunity for him, another big game from him on a different stage and it projects his career again.
“I’m sure no one is set (in the NSW team) at the moment. There would be half a dozen players (Blues coach) Laurie (Daley) would have a real clear idea on who he wants in the team but a lot of things can happen between now and then.”
Fittler said as many as eight spots in the NSW team are up for grabs with just the representative weekend and two NRL rounds before Daley picks his team on May 19.
Making Daley’s backline selection more difficult is injuries to Brett and Josh Morris and Will Hopoate. All three Origin stars could be unavailable for the first game.
That coupled with the loss of Jarryd Hayne makes it more imperative for 2013 premiership winner Tupou to find some form ahead of the interstate series.
However the selection of Wests Tigers fullback on the City wing indicates that Blues selectors are prepared to look outside the square in their search for the best backline combination for Origin I.