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Tom Gilbert to make Queensland debut in Origin III

State of Origin debut for Tom Gilbert
Tom Gilbert will make his State of Origin debut for Queensland in July 13’s crunch clash at Suncorp Stadium. (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Queensland have turned to 21-year-old Cowboys forward Tom Gilbert to make his debut in one of the most pressurised State of Origin clashes in many years at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday week.

After a dramatic selectors’ meeting, which dragged on well into the night, Gilbert was given the nod to start on the bench with his Cowboy teammate Jeremiah Nanai promoted to the starting pack to replace Melbourne star Felise Kaufusi, who is currently in the USA.

Kaufusi made the dash to Los Angeles late last week to be by his ill father’s side.

Selectors were locked behind closed doors for several hours debating a number of positions for the series’ decider, including the futures of veteran prop Josh Papalii and long-serving centre Dane Gagai.

Despite again playing limited minutes in Canberra’s narrow loss to the Dragons yesterday, Papalii was stamped for his 23rd Origin appearance against the Blues.

Gagai’s defence, especially in the first two Origin clashes, has come in for some examination, but with 21 Origins and 12 Origin tries beside his name, he has earned a reprieve.

Queensland have injury concerns over fullback Kalyn Ponga (concussion) and hooker Ben Hunt (leg), while five-eighth Cameron Munster is still being inconvenienced by the shoulder injury that forced him to sit out last weekend’s game against Manly.

Gilbert, a schoolboy rugby union convert, will be the Dolphins’ first Origin player after he agreed to a three-year deal with the franchise which joins the NRL in 2023.

A former Queensland U-18 representative and Queensland Cup rookie of the year in 2019, Gilbert received a strong push from members of the team’s coaching support staff.

Brisbane-born Gilbert has played 38 games since his debut off the bench against Cronulla in round four, 2020, and has the physical attributes at 100kg and 185cm to play Origin, according to those who know him best.

Having lost two of their hardest-working defensive specialists in Reuben Cotter and now Kaufusi, Queensland will need to get some more minutes from their forwards.

The decider is already a sellout with NSW to confront a hostile crowd at a ground that hasn’t been kind to them in deciders over the years.

The last time the Blues clinched the series at Lang Park was 17 years ago in 2005, while Queensland have won the last five deciders in 2011 (34-24), 2012 (21-20 Cronk field goal), 2015 (52-6), 2017 (22-6), and 2020 (20-14).

Queensland team for State of Origin Game 3

Suncorp Stadium – Wednesday, July 13, 2022

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