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Why Maroons are stronger with Munster at fullback: Smith

Former Queensland captain Cameron Smith has backed the decision to move Cameron Munster for next Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider and believes the Maroons may even be stronger with him in the No.1 jersey.

Munster will play fullback after the loss of injured superstar Kalyn Ponga, with Corey Norman to make his Origin debut alongside captain Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves.

The Ponga-Munster combination has caused huge concerns for NSW’s right-edge defence in the opening two matches of the series but Smith said his Melbourne Storm teammate would be even more dangerous at fullback as he can attack on both sides of the field.  

"As soon as I heard that Ponga was ruled out, in my mind I was thinking if I am coaching I would put Munster straight back there. I think that is his best position, I really do," Smith said.

"Fullback gives him the freedom to roam around wherever he wants and he can pop up wherever he wants to. I think sometimes being at five-eighth he gets a little bit locked into that one edge."

While Ponga’s loss is a significant blow to Queensland, Smith suggested Munster may pose a bigger threat to the Blues as he has now played six Origin games.  

"He has obviously got more experience in the big games, Kalyn has only played three Origins," Smith said. "Most players when they make their debut they are up for the game - you have to be - and then the next five or six games you are trying to find your way in the contest.

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"Origin is a totally different game to club footy and we all know Kalyn is a terrific player but they quite possibly are more dangerous with Munster because sometimes even he doesn’t know what he is doing, so if he doesn’t know what he is doing how do NSW.

"If he is involved and he gets plenty of touches they will be dangerous for NSW."

Despite Smith believing fullback was Munster’s best position, he was forced to play elsewhere at the Storm because of the presence of Billy Slater and has become the club’s chief playmaker since the departure of Cooper Cronk at the end of the 2018 season.

He is also now the first choice five-eighth for Australia, as well as Queensland.

"He is spending time at No.6 but he is a guy who plays off instinct," Smith said. "He plays off what he sees and he is actually a really dangerous player when he has that freedom.

"Last year we were playing against the Titans up on the Gold Coast and we needed something, he got the ball on the left side, ran across the field and scored in the right corner.

"That is just the type of player he is when you give him the freedom to roam and look for some opportunities he plays his best footy. He plays on instinct and he is not so much about structure and set plays, although he is improving in that area."

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Smith said Munster was determined to have an influence on the series decider at ANZ Stadium as he was disappointed with his performance in Queensland’s 38-6 loss in Origin II at Perth’s Optus Stadium.

"There is no doubt when he came back you could see he was disappointed and rightly so," Smith said. "When you are an elite player and you don’t play to your capabilities you are always disappointed.

"That is why they play State of Origin because they care and I hope it is still stinging for those guys."

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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