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Tim Sheens urges Josh Papalii not to rush return for tilt at Test squad

He compared his World Cup final flick pass as Sonny Bill Williams-esque, but Australia coach Tim Sheens says injured Raider Josh Papalii's sole focus should be returning for Canberra as he races the clock to be fit for May's Test against New Zealand. 

Papalii made his Queensland Origin and Australia Test debuts in a breakout season last year, but the back-rower is in serious danger of not playing again before the re-match against the Kiwis in Sydney on May 2. 

Papalii faces four to six weeks on the sidelines after suffering an ankle syndesmosis injury in last Sunday's 26-20 win at Newcastle. 

He is not expected to return until round seven at best, which would be his lone chance to press his Test claims should he prove his fitness. 

"I've heard [he's out] for five or six weeks, but I'm letting it go for a while before I check with Ricky [Stuart, Raiders coach] as to what his situation is, the same with [injured Cronulla skipper] Paul Gallen,'' Sheens said. 

"The main concern for him right now is to put in the hours to get back on the park for Canberra. 


"I like to hope everything goes well for him this year, he's playing good football and available for selection again.''

Papalii was a shock call-up to Australia's World Cup squad last year after playing strongly in the final two Origin games for Queensland.

The 21-year-old impressed Sheens enough to play four matches, including the crushing win over New Zealand in the final. 

His flick pass which led to a Brett Morris try was one of the highlights of the 34-2 win. 

"That was something you'd expect Sonny Bill Williams to do,'' Sheens said. 

"He carried the ball in one hand like a tennis ball and controlled it out the back of the hand, it was a great try.

"He was certainly a super-sub coming off the bench, in respect to his power in both offence and defence.

"I was happy with his development considering last year was his first big breakout year, with Origin as well.''

Australia and Queensland selector Des Morris remains hopeful Papalii is fit and playing well enough to be available.

But he hinted Raiders whizz kid Anthony Milford may have to wait a little longer to pull on a Maroons jersey, despite his devastating early season form. 

Queensland selectors are known for their loyalty, and head Maroons selector Morris said Papalii had justified their faith.

Barring setbacks, Papalii should get two to four matches under his belt before the team for Origin I is named. 

"If he's got a serious injury and he doesn't make it back and is struggling for time, that would hinder him,'' Morris said. 

"It'll depend on his fitness, his form and the form of the other guys going for that position. 

"He certainly hasn't let anyone down when he's been given an opportunity in representative football, that would stand him in good stead for future teams.''

Milford has taken the NRL by storm with two outstanding performances at fullback for Canberra, backing up his rookie 2013 season. 

The Souths Logan junior can also play in the halves, hooker and outside backs, making him ideal for a bench utility role. 

However that spot has been nailed down by Manly superstar Daly Cherry-Evans, and Milford would only be a realistic option if injuries strike. 

"He [Milford] is in our emerging squad and he's an exciting prospect,'' Morris said. 

"He's had one or two good games, Anthony needs to work on his game and build his confidence at [NRL] level. 

"Everyone's extremely happy the way he's going, and we'll take it under consideration when we sit down in a few weeks' time.''