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Morgan reassures on centre abilities

By Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

MICHAEL MORGAN - 29th September 2013 - Queensland Rugby League (QRL) INTRUST SUPER CUP Grand Final played between the Easts Tigers v Mackay Cutters played at Ipswich Reserve. Mackay Cutters ran out winners 27-20. This image is for Editorial Use Only. Any further use or individual sale of the image must be cleared by application to the Manager Sports Media Publishing (SMP Images). PHOTO : CHARLES KNIGHT SMP IMAGES
Michael Morgan played a lot of centre for Mackay in the Intrust Super Cup before joining the Cowboys in the NRL. PHOTO: Charles Knight, SMP Images

He's played 16 minutes at left centre since coming into first grade but Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan has assured Queensland fans that his selection out wide for Game III is not a gamble by coach Kevin Walters.

The Maroons confirmed on Thursday morning that Cameron Munster would be catapulted into the most high-pressure Origin debut in the 37-year history by playing at five-eighth with Morgan to line up outside him at left centre.

Queensland have never handed an Origin debut to a half in the third game of a series since the concept expanded to three games in 1982 and with the injuries to Johnathan Thurston and Anthony Milford it is the first time since 1996 that they have fielded three different halves combinations in a series.

In seven Origin appearances to date Morgan has never once featured in the starting team and despite his only senior taste of left centre coming in a Four Nations cameo for the Kangaroos against England last year he is confident he and Munster can handle whatever the Blues throw at them.

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"I don't think it's a gamble. It makes sense with his combination with the Melbourne guys to have him there," Morgan said of his selection in the centres and Munster at five-eighth.

"Actually the Four Nations last year I played there when 'GI' (Greg Inglis) went down.

"I played all through my 20s there. I didn't play on the right until I came into first grade because 'JT' (Thurston) played a lot on the left. So I was always more comfortable playing on the left.

"Surprisingly they left 'JT' on the left and had to move me," Morgan added with tongue firmly in cheek.


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‌As products of North Queensland you could have expected Morgan and Munster's paths to have crossed a few times growing up but it wasn't until Munster came into the Intrust Super Cup in 2013 that they lined up against each other.

Three years Munster's senior, Morgan was part of Mackay's 2013 Intrust Super Cup premiership where he played predominantly at right centre and in the five games they have played against each other in the NRL Munster's Storm own a 3-2 winning record.

They had their first run together on Thursday morning in an extensive Maroons session and Morgan was encouraged by how they combined and hinted that they could switch positions during the course of the game.

"Kev said we're more than welcome to (switch around)," said Morgan, who delivered yet another miracle flick pass for the try that levelled the scores late in Game II whilst playing right centre.

"He'll leave that up to us given it's Cam's first game and I'm sure he might be feeling tired and that kind of thing. So that's one way I can try to help him I suppose.

"Also being right beside each other on the same side of the field it's not a huge thing to try and do.

"So he said we can but this week at training I'm out to help Cam as much as possible. So it's better he trains a lot more at six than anything else.

"I've played against him a few times but never actually with him. But I thought we trained pretty well today as an edge defending and attacking. I felt pretty comfortable there."

With Munster's combination at the Storm with Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, his transition in such a big game is likely to be smoothest at five-eighth while Morgan's larger frame is suited to defending opposite Blues centre Josh Dugan.

"Obviously I do prefer playing in the halves but from a team point of view I completely understand the decision and I'm more than happy with it," Morgan said of missing out on his preferred position.

"There are obviously a lot of one-on-one situations (in the centres) so your one-on-one defence has to be good.

"And against Josh Dugan who is a very good attacking player, and a big body as well, the one-on-one defence has to be good.

"That's where their biggest challenge will be and I have confidence in the guys around me to help.

"I'll make sure we train well this week so I take a good mindset into the game."

* This article was first published at NRL.com