New Blues five-eighth, Mark Gasnier.
New Blues five-eighth, Mark Gasnier.

NSW selectors gamble on Gasnier at number six

By ADRIAN PROSZENKO

SYDNEY (AAP): NSW selection chairman Bob McCarthy denied taking a gamble after today naming Mark Gasnier at five eighth for Wednesday week's deciding third State of Origin rugby league match against Queensland at Melbourne's Telstra Dome.

Gasnier and Craig Gower were chosen to replace halves Braith Anasta and Brett Finch who were dropped among a slew of changes after a poor display in the second game loss at Suncorp Stadium.

The selectors opted for regular centre Gasnier at five eighth despite his inexperience in that playmaking position.

"The more time Gasnier gets the ball, the more dangerous he's going to be," McCarthy said.

"You saw in the first two games we played, he didn't get much ball and when he did he had two blokes around his ankles.

"He needs more ball ... he can handle the five eighth role.

"(Dragons coach) Nathan Brown suggested he will be at five eighth next year so this might be the starting stone for him at State of Origin for years to come."

Matt Cooper was called into the side to take over St George Illawarra teammate Gasnier's centre spot while Timana Tahu and Matt King had their positions switched with King going from wing to centre.

Utility Craig Wing joined fellow Sydney Roosters players Anasta and Finch in being dropped, with St George Illawarra's Ben Hornby taking over his bench spot.

Luke O'Donnell returned to the side after missing game two through injury suffered in game one and he replaced Andrew Ryan, while Cronulla's Paul Gallen was rewarded for recent good form with a bench position.



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