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3 days ago
Blues coach Ricky Stuart lit the fuse for another representative selection bunfight by declaring he could not guarantee Australian players a spot in the Blues side.
Stuart's warning is good news for Newcastle halfback Andrew Johns, who seems likely to miss out on the Anzac test against New Zealand on April 22.
But it spells danger for the test squad, with NSW members of the Australian side to be rested for the City-Country game in early May - a trial for the Origin series.
It's a practice Stuart believes is flawed.
"I won't be guaranteeing a player who gets picked in the test team a NSW jumper," Stuart said today.
"I'm not trying to create their (NSW Rugby League) rules. But I think they should have the option if they want to play for City or Country, they should be able to put their hand up."
The practice of resting test players for the City-Country game came under fire last season when NSW selectors overlooked
Australian prop Joel Clinton for the State of Origin series.
Clinton was left high and dry, angering the Kangaroo tourist and Penrith officials.
But Panthers coach John Lang tonight backed the ARL's decision to stand down test players and dismissed the City-Country game as a selection trial.
"I don't think the City-Country game is going to be the thing that makes the difference," Lang said.
"It's not a selection trial. It's just another game.
"It comes down to a matter of opinion from the person who's going to pick the side, that's the coach."
Johns, who passed a fitness test today and will travel to Townsville for the weekend clash with North Queensland, was also given hope ahead of the Origin series.
The Knights halfback has been struggling for form since returning from a knee injury.
However, his past performances for the Blues may save his Origin career.
"You can pick players who are out of form to play Origin and (they're) in form," Stuart said.
"That's what Origin creates."