Munster, Taulagi ruled out with COVID, McLean heartbreak, Gilbert to make Maroons debut

Queensland’s plans for Origin III have suffered a major hit, with star duo Cameron Munster and Murray Taulagi testing positive for COVID-19.

The news comes only days after Munster declared he was right to go for the series decider, having suffered a shoulder injury in the Maroons’ Game II loss.

The five-eighth had scans on his left shoulder after a collision early in the second half rendered him a “passenger”. He sat out Melbourne’s loss to Manly in Round 16 but the scans revealed his shoulder injury was AC joint irritation.

Corey Oates has been drafted into the squad as a replacement.

“Cameron Munster and Murray Taulagi returned positive Rapid Antigen Tests today,” the Maroons announced in a statement on Friday.

“Both players have received PCR swabs to confirm whether they have COVID-19. They are isolating from the group while results from these swabs are pending.

“All other players have returned negative RAT tests.

“The Maroons are following all protocols as advised by the NRL.

“Corey Oates will join the Maroons squad tonight.”

Meanwhile, the NSW Blues’ have been rocked by the devasting news that Jordan McLean is out after injuring his hamstring at training.

McLean was set to make his debut and was named by Brad Fittler to start the decider against Queensland.

Instead, the Blues are now having to replace McLean with squad member Jacob Saifiti now set to make his debut with Sharks veteran Dale Finucane joining the reserves bench after playing for Cronulla in Thursday night’s win over Melbourne.

McLean was originally selected to replace Payne Haas after he injured his shoulder on Broncos duty.

“My career has been full of ups and downs and I’ve kind of been used to it but I thought there might be some light at the end of the tunnel getting this opportunity but it wasn’t to be,” McLean told reporters.

The only problem is that Saifiti had already left camp after being allowed to play for Newcastle for their clash against South Sydney on Friday night. There’s now a mad scramble to get Saifiti back to the Blues camp in Kingscliff.

It’s been a crazy few days for the Blues with Nicho Hynes ruled out after contracting COVID. Thankfully all other players have tested negative and it was perhaps a blessing in disguise that he had left the camp to attempt to play for the Sharks. He’s been replaced by Chad Townsend.

Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton have been retained at centre with Jack Wighton recalled as 18th man while Cowboys hooker Reece Robson was added to the reserves.

Latrell Mitchell ruled himself out of Origin III calculations after the NSW centre candidate said he would not be ready after only just making his return from a long-term hamstring injury.

“I think I’m going to shut down them headlines now. I’m going to pull myself out and worry about Souths,” Mitchell told Fox League after making his return to the NRL in the 30-12 win over Parramatta.

Haas had a high ankle sprain from the Origin II win in Perth but after he was cleared by the Broncos for their clash with the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night, he aggravated a shoulder injury.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Payne Haas of the Blues is tackled during game one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 08, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Payne Haas. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Queensland have brought in Cowboys young gun Tom Gilbert to make his State of Origin debut in the series decider to replace Felise Kaufusi.

The Maroons have drafted in the North Queensland foward after Kaufusi advised coach Billy Slater that he would not return in time after the Storm granted him time off to go to the United States to be with his father, Taniela, who has been hospitalised in Los Angeles.

Gilbert has been named on the interchange bench, with fellow Cowboy Jeremiah Nanai promoted to the starting side in Kaufusi’s absence to bolster Queensland’s badly beaten pack from the 44-12 Optus Stadium thumping in Origin II..

Maroons selectors have also added North Queensland utility back Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Roosters half Sam Walker to the squad. Warriors fullback Reece Walsh (COVID-19) is unavailable.

Slater said former Maroons forward David Fifita, who made a successful return from a knee injury in Round 16 on Friday in Newcastle, was not be considered due to his lack of recent game time.

Cowboys lock Reuben Cotter who starred on debut in the series opener, is still a couple of weeks away from returning from his hamstring problem.

Game three is in Brisbane next Wednesday with Queensland needing to win to prevent NSW from lifting the shield for the fourth time in five years.

Cam Munster for Queensland

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“Felise has unfortunately got an illness in the family and won’t make the trip back for the game,” Slater told the Nine Network’s Sunday Footy Show.

“I spoke to Felise before he went to America and we didn’t talk about playing in the game. We had a chat yesterday (Saturday) and there’s still some uncertainty there and the priority is his family.

“He’s not in a position to be playing State of Origin.”

Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga suffered a head knock in the second half of Origin II and was ruled out for Newcastle in Round 16 on Friday when the Knights host the Titans but has been declared good to go.

Tom Gilbert

Tom Gilbert lining up for the Cowboys. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

NSW team

  1. James Tedesco
  2. Brian To’o
  3. Matt Burton
  4. Stephen Crichton
  5. Daniel Tupou
  6. Jarome Luai
  7. Nathan Cleary
  8. Jacob Saifiti
  9. Api Koroisau
  10. Jake Trbojevic
  11. Liam Martin
  12. Cameron Murray
  13. Isaah Yeo
  14. Damien Cook
  15. Angus Crichton
  16. Junior Paulo
  17. Siosifa Talakai
  18. Jack Wighton
  19. Chad Townsend
  20. Clint Gutherson
  21. Dale Finucane
  22. Reece Robson

35 Revisions

Queensland team

  1. Kalyn Ponga
  2. Selwyn Cobbo
  3. Valentine Holmes
  4. Dane Gagai
  5. Murray Taulagi (to be replaced)
  6. Cameron Munster (to be replaced)
  7. Daly Cherry-Evans
  8. Lindsay Collins
  9. Ben Hunt
  10. Josh Papalii
  11. Kurt Capewell
  12. Jeremiah Nanai
  13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
  14. Harry Grant
  15. Jai Arrow
  16. Patrick Carrigan
  17. Tom Gilbert
  18. Tom Flegler
  19. Tom Dearden
  20. Beau Fermor
  21. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
  22. Sam Walker

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