Test prop Andrew Fifita is at long odds to win his place back in the NSW Origin squad for Origin II unless there is an injury, due to concerns over whether he will fit into the new Blues culture.
Fifita, who was a member of the Australian team which beat New Zealand in last November's World Cup final at Old Trafford, is hopeful of making his return from a three-week lay-off with an ankle injury for Cronulla in next Saturday night's match against St George Illawarra in a bid to prove his fitness for Origin.
However, Fairfax Media understands Fifita may not have even been in the team that triumphed 12-8 over Queensland in last Wednesday night's series opener at Suncorp Stadium if he had been available and he is likely to be chosen for Origin II only if there is an injury to frontrowers Aaron Woods and James Tamou.
After losing Tamou and Blake Ferguson for the second match of last year's Origin series due to separate alcohol-related incidents, Blues coach Laurie Daley is trying to change the culture within the NSW team and there are believed to be some concerns about what impact Fifita would have on that transition.
The 24-year-old former Wests Tigers forward enjoyed a meteoric rise last year to force his way into the NSW and Australian teams after an outstanding first season wtih Cronulla in which he won the Dally M award for the NRL's best frontrower and was the No.1 player of 2013 according to Sportsdata's contributor value ranking system.
Since returning from the World Cup, Fifita has failed to recapture the same form and has spent five weeks on the sideline due to a two-match ban for a grade-two shoulder charge on Gold Coast winger David Mead in the opening round of the season and the ankle injury he sustained against Parramatta two weeks ago.
He has also been the centre of a bitter contract dispute with Canterbury after believing he had agreed to a $3.2 million four-year deal to leave the Sharks that failed to come to fruition and was dropped by Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens for last month's trans-Tasman Test against the Kiwis at Allianz Stadium.
Had Fifita's form demanded his selection, there would be no doubts about him being picked for Origin II as the Blues attempt to end Queensland's run of eight consecutive Origin victories.
However, NSW officials were happy with the way the players chosen for the series opener responded to the attempt to change the culture within the team and the way they played last week in Brisbane.
Gold Coast backrower Greg Bird will come back into the team after serving a suspension for a lifting tackle but there is unlikely to be any other unforced changes to the team that played in Origin I.
It remains unclear which forward will make way for Bird, but one solution may be to move secondrower Beau Scott to right centre in place of the injured Josh Morris to mark Greg Inglis, with Will Hopoate, James McMannus, Josh Mansour, Jorge Taufua or Josh Dugan to replace the injured Brett Morris on the wing.
The Morris twins have been ruled out of the remaining two games of the series on June 18 and July 9 due to shoulder (Brett) and knee (Josh) injuries, leaving Daley to find a new right-side centre/wing combination.
The most obvious option would be to move Jarrod Hayne to the right centre position he played for Australia in the World Cup but it is widely regarded as a gamble to move the Parramatta superstar from his usual fullback position after a man-of-the- match performance in the series opener.
Scott played centre for NSW in the second and third games of the 2010 Origin series and has regularly switched between the position and second row during his 10-seasons with Cronulla, St George Illawarra and Newcastle.
After earning an Origin recall following Bird's suspension for the series opener, Scott defended inside Josh Morris and made two try-saving tackles, while the Morris twins also made one each.