Not one but two players will replace Queensland fullback Billy Slater in State of Origin III.
After confirming Cooper Cronk will be picked, Maroons chief selector Des Morris has backed a plan to alternate Greg Inglis between fullback and Darius Boyd’s wing in July 8’s series decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland coach Mal Meninga is set to name Cronk (knee) in the game three team in Brisbane on Monday despite the recovering halfback pulling out of Melbourne’s NRL clash with Canterbury.
And Inglis loomed as the obvious fullback replacement when Slater was ruled out with a season-ending shoulder injury after Queensland’s 26-18 game two loss in Melbourne.
However, Morris backed Meninga’s plan to share fullback duties between Inglis and good mate Boyd.
Inglis was rotated between centre and Boyd’s wing in game two with spectacular results.
Meninga told News Corp that Inglis’ communication was “not the strongest part of his game” and hoped he would share No.1 duties with the “naturally more talkative” Boyd.
“They are both great players and have plenty of experience at fullback,” Morris told AAP.
“We will miss Billy’s enthusiasm and talk and all that in defence but these other guys are pretty experienced and will get the job done for Queensland.”
Morris was not concerned by Boyd’s groin complaint picked up in Brisbane’s 44-22 NRL win over Newcastle on Friday night.
He also confirmed Cronk would have been picked for Queensland regardless of whether the Storm No.7 ran out against the Bulldogs on Monday night.
“All the medical reports we have got they are convinced he will be right – fingers crossed he will be,” he said.
If Cronk is picked, bench utility Michael Morgan is expected to make way for game two halfback Daly Cherry-Evans on the Maroons interchange.
Meninga hinted that Canberra’s Josh Papalii may replace Queensland interchange forward Josh McGuire, who ruptured his Achilles in Brisbane’s Friday night romp.
Meninga also threw Newcastle’s Korbin Sims and Sydney Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa in the mix with Papalii, who have all enjoyed time in a Queensland Origin camp as part of an extended squad.
“They’re the obvious answers there,” Meninga told ABC Grandstand radio program.
“If you look at experience then Josh Papalii’s probably in front.
“I think experience is key when it comes to deciders in Origin.”
Newcastle’s Dane Gagai is set to feature in Queensland’s reshuffled backline.
With Inglis sharing fullback, Will Chambers moves into the centres and Gagai on the wing for their must-win clash.
Gagai was sensational in a beaten Knights side on Friday night, amassing 203m, three line breaks and a try in a timely Origin audition.
“He created something out of nothing (on Friday night),” Andrew Johns told Channel Nine’s The Sunday Footy Show.
“He’s got great speed, power and evasion.
“He’s ready for Origin.”