The 27-year-old Sea Eagles’ star will wear the Blues’ jersey against Queensland in Wednesday’s (May 23) opening encounter in Melbourne in his first appearance since game three of the 2008 series.
His inclusion is part of one of the biggest shake ups of the squad in recent history.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart revealed his starting team after Monday’s final match of the round between St George Illawarra and Penrith, announcing a 17-man squad with no less than nine changes from last year.
Unavailable for the side were Mark Gasnier (retired) and Kurt Gidley (injured). But the rest of the excluded players – Anthony Minichiello, Brett Morris, Jamie Soward, Tim Mannah, Michael Ennis, Keith Galloway and Anthony Watmough – were simply overlooked.
Robbie Farah will take the hooking role with Stuart preferring the Wests Tigers skipper to Michael Ennis, who had held the spot since the third match in 2009.
Penrith centre Michael Jennings will also become the first player in almost 30 years to be chosen from reserve grade to represent NSW, while Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne is likely to play on the wing.
Stuart will hand debuts to Cronulla’s Todd Carney, North Queensland’s James Tamou and Manly utility Jamie Buhrer.
Queensland meanwhile will begin their quest for an unprecedented seventh straight State of Origin title by fielding one of the biggest teams in the series’ history in an attempt to out-muscle the mobile Blues team.
– Greg Bird; Jamie Buhrer; Todd Carney; Ben Creagh; Robbie Farah; Paul Gallen (capt); Jarryd Hayne; Michael Jennings; Luke Lewis; Trent Merrin; Josh Morris; Mitchell Pearce; Brett Stewart; Glenn Stewart; James Tamou; Tony Williams; Akuila Uate.
– Billy Slater; Darius Boyd; Greg Inglis; Justin Hodges; Brent Tate; Johnathan Thurston; Cooper Cronk; Matthew Scott; Cameron Smith (capt); Petero Civoniceva; Nate Myles; Sam Thaiday; Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Matt Gillett; Dave Taylor; Ben Hannant; David Shillington; Daly Cherry-Evans;
(two to be omitted).