Mansour ready for Origin
A knee injury to Canterbury fullback Brett Morris could open the door for Penrith's Josh Mansour to realise a boyhood dream and make his State of Origin debut for the Blues.
Morris's rehab is set to take four months, with the injury likely to force NSW selectors to start looking for a replacement when the NRL Telstra Premiership season kicks off on Thursday night.
Speaking to NRL.com hours before news of Morris's setback broke, Mansour identified the three game series as one of his goals leading into a big 18-month representative period.
"It's the number one stage in the game. It's one of my goals for this year," the Penrith winger said.
"I'd love to wear the Blue jumper this year or next, but ultimately I'd love to play there. It's the biggest stage. The calibre of players and the physicality of the contest is what makes me want to be a part of it."
Mansour has been on the cusp of Origin selection for the past few years, but the powerful winger has yet to earn the shot he so desperately desires.
He's hoping his combination with new recruit Peta Hiku brings stability to his game, after injuries to teammates seemingly saw Mansour play outside a new centre partner each week in 2014 and 2015.
"Me and Peta have been doing very well together. We've gelled quite nicely and I'm looking forward to playing with him this weekend," the 25-year-old said.
"I think defence is our biggest strength. We were able to play very well in the trials. We were very happy and the effort was good. We just have to fix a few little things and we'll be good to go this week."
Penrith's leading try-scorer in 2014 isn't limiting himself to the Origin arena, identifying next year's World Cup as his long-term goal.
Mansour is in an interesting position having played for Lebanon in the 2009 European Cup, as well as the Kangaroos in the 2014 Four Nations, and hasn't ruled out playing for the Lebanese national side if selected.
"I'm not going to beat around the bush. Preferably I'd like to put the green and gold jersey on again. That's my number one goal," Mansour said.
"I have played for Lebanon before and that was a great trip, and I met a lot of great blokes. If that chance came again, I'd probably take it if I didn’t get the opportunity for Australia."
After consecutive heartbreaking qualifying campaigns, Lebanon made it through to its first World Cup since 2000 with back-to-back wins over South Africa.
The Cedars were undefeated in the 2008 and 2013 qualifying stages, but missed out on for-and-against to eventual group winners Italy and Ireland.
Mansour hopes their progression to the 2017 tournament will help promote the game in the Middle East, and hasn't ruled out the possibility of other NRL stars joining him in the Lebanese squad.
"I think we're lacking a bit of that on the international stage. Lebanon has been quite unlucky in the past two World Cups. But it's good to see them make the World Cup – especially here in Australia," Mansour told NRL.com.
"We've got a big Lebanese fan base in the western suburbs and in the rest of Sydney, so I think it will be very good, not only for Lebanon, but for international rugby league.
"I'm actually catching up with Robbie Farah tomorrow night for dinner. I haven't really asked him about what his mindset is, but I'm sure that he'd love to have a final run with Lebanon."