New South Wales Origin forward Greg Bird has given Titans teammate Ryan James a ringing endorsement for higher honours after the 24-year-old inspired Gold Coast to a 29-28 win over the Rabbitohs in Perth on Sunday.
James was the one who powered over the line to put his side in front in the 13th minute and it was James again pushing through trying to get to South Sydney half Adam Reynolds in the 85th minute when he was obstructed by Nathan Brown which saw the successful field goal over-turned.
He has been talked about as a future Origin representative since coming into the NRL as an 18-year-old front-rower in 2010 but with the injury to Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner Bird believes his time has come.
Blues coach Laurie Daley has a week to determine how he will reorganise his forward pack for Game II in Brisbane in Cordner's absence but a performance from James against an aggressive South Sydney pack that yielded two tries, 185 metres, 49 tackles and an incredible 12 tackle busts could hardly have been better timed.
When Thomas Burgess made the error that led to Ashley Taylor's match-winning field goal it was James making the desperate tackle and Bird is adamant that his game has developed to the point where it can stand up to rugby league's toughest test.
"I think he'd go great if he got the call," Bird told NRL.com after the Titans' third win on the trot, their first three-game winning streak since Round 8, 2015.
"He's been good for us all year. Every game he leads from the front, he plays tough, he plays aggressive and they're the attributes you need to play Origin football.
"I'm sure he'll be ready if 'Loz' (Daley) wants to go that way."
Injuries have played havoc with James' development over the past five years with the 2012 and 2014 seasons seeing him play a total of seven games in the top grade.
He played 21 games last season and has not missed one thus far in 2016, giving his body the foundation it needs to withstand the demands of playing big minutes in the middle of the field.
"He's been doing what he's doing now for a couple of years but he's just been plagued with injuries," said Bird.
"We get to this point every year and he gets bumps and bruises and form takes a bit of a hit when he's sitting on the sideline.
"This year he's fighting fit, he's had a great off-season and as you get older playing in the front row, your body gets used to taking the hits and I think he's at a place now where he can go to that next level."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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