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Qld ‘nonetheless a risk’ without Munster: Luai

NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai insists the Blues are still wary of Queensland’s attack despite the Maroons losing superstar Cameron Munster for Wednesday’s State of Origin decider.

Instead of spearheading Queensland’s charge at Suncorp Stadium, Munster will be kicking his heels in a Gold Coast hotel room after testing positive for COVID-19 late last week.

The Maroons’ playmaker has a proven track record, putting in man-of-the-match displays in 2017 and 2020 the last two times the shield has been up for grabs in game three of a series at Queensland’s home ground.

With Munster out, the Maroons have called up North Queensland’s Tom Dearden for his Origin debut although it remains unclear whether he’ll start in the No.6 jersey or if Ben Hunt will move from the bench to a starting role.

Luai says whoever is his opposite number on the park makes no difference to his or his teammate’s preparations.

“Nothing has changed for us. Whoever chucks on that six jersey Wednesday night is going to be a threat regardless,” Luai told AAP.

“They have a lot of good halves and a guy like Tommy Dearden … he’s been playing some really good footy this year.

“His confidence will be right up there.

“His team have been top two, top three all year so we’ll be heads on going about our work.”

Luai is yet to play in a game three decider in his brief Origin career but was part of the Blues team which thumped Queensland 26-0 at Suncorp Stadium in game two last year to win the series.

He is also one of eight players in the Blues’ team which were part of Penrith’s NRL grand final win at the venue last year.

The 25-year-old says the past is the past however as NSW look to win a game three decider in Brisbane for just the third time in Origin history.

“You’ve got to start again,” he said.

“At the end of the day, none of that matters. (We’re) coming to do a job.

“It’s a big occasion. For us boys here, it’s a massive opportunity for us just looking at the history of games that haven’t been won there.

“We’re ready for the challenge. We’re excited for it.

“We’re going to give it our all.”

The Blues held their final training session at their Kingscliff camp on Monday morning, before heading to Brisbane ahead of Tuesday’s captain’s run at Suncorp Stadium.

Debutant Jacob Saifiti, rushed back into the squad last week after Jordan McLean’s hamstring injury, will begin his Origin career on the interchange bench meaning Parramatta wrecking ball Junior Paulo will start Wednesday’s game for the Blues.

Luai said the twin brother of former NSW player Daniel Saifiti was ready to do his job for the Blues on enemy soil.

“I’ve played alongside Daniel so when I look across I think it’s Daniel, they’re so similar, but he’s confident, he’s ready to tackle this head on,” Luai said.

“He’s getting a bit of confidence out of his brother having tasted this already so he wants a taste of it as well.

“Can’t wait to play out there with him and I’ll have his back.”

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