NSW coach Ricky Stuart has dropped Newcastle Knights winger Aku Uate for the State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 4.
Uate had come under fire for several defensive lapses in the first two games of the series which led directly to Queensland tries, and Stuart has replaced the dual Dally M winger of the year with experienced Dragons and former NSW and Australian winger Brett Morris.
Stuart said Uate should not be held solely responsible for those errors but the Blues had ‘‘an opportunity to strengthen that edge defensively’’ so he bit the bullet and selected Morris.
Uate, who was named last year as the best winger in the world, has played five straight Origin games since making his debut in the first match of the 2011 series.
Stuart said that he had spoken to Uate today and, though the 24-year-old Fijian and Australian international was disappointed, he took the setback in his stride and would join the Blues in Brisbane next week for the final stage of camp and to watch the game from the sideline.
Uate has been under an injury cloud with a groin strain for the past week but ran unencumbered with the Knights at training this morning and is expected to take his place for them against Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium tomorrow night.