Sailor in frame for Origin return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sailor in frame for Origin return

By Steve Jancetic 05/06/2009 07:38:18 PM Comments (0)

Dual international Wendell Sailor is on the verge of a remarkable return to the Origin arena with the St George Illawarra veteran locked in a battle with Willie Tonga to replace injured centre Maroons centre Justin Hodges.

Hodges is expected to be sidelined for up to four weeks after suffering medial ligament damage midway through the first half of Wednesday night's series-opening win to the Maroons.

With Origin II in Sydney less than three weeks away, Hodges would have to be in extreme doubt to make it back in time as Queensland bid for a historic fourth straight series win.

His loss has opened the door for Sailor to return to an arena he hasn't graced since the last of his 14 Origin matches in 2001 - with the 34-year-old a chance to slot onto the wing and Israel Folau sliding over to centre.

"We've got a few options there, we'll have to see what happens over the next week or two and go from there," Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris said.

"Obviously (Sailor's) playing well for the Dragons so he'd certainly come into consideration.

"We always try to pick it on form - he as well as other players are playing well for their clubs."

Sailor's main threat to a Maroons return - just 12 months after returning to rugby league following a two-year suspension for drug use - would appear to be North Queensland centre Tonga.

Tonga has been in good form for the Cowboys after missing most of last season due to a knee reconstruction.

Dragons centre Matt Cooper, himself eyeing a return to NSW colours after being overlooked for game one, said he had no doubt Sailor could still handle the pace of Origin football.

"He's been out of the Origin (scene) for a while now but he's been playing great for us," Cooper said.

"I can't see a reason why he can't go out there and put in a good performance for Queensland because he's been doing it for us for the last 12 rounds.

"They (Queensland) have obviously got a great backline and I think he'd just slip straight in."

Cooper admitted he found it tough watching Wednesday night's series opener on television, the first Origin game he hadn't been involved in since game two in 2006.

Despite his strong desire to reclaim a sky blue jumper and sub-par performances from NSW centres Jamie Lyon and Michael Jennings in Origin I, Cooper said he expected Blues selectors to stick with the side which lost 28-18 at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium.

"I reckon they will (stick with the incumbents)," Cooper said.

"If you take out that last try Queensland scored it's six points difference, that's classic Origin.

"They went really well, they'll learn from that experience.

"Obviously eight new players in a NSW side it's going to be tough to get a win but I think they did NSW proud.

"If they get a second chance they'll really learn from that last game and pick up their standard of game."

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