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Clifford to start alongside Morgan as Green shuffles deck

Jake Clifford will get another chance to make the Cowboys' No.6 jersey his own after being one of six changes to the side that will face Cronulla at 1300Smiles Stadium on Saturday night.

Coach Paul Green has named Josh McGuire at lock in the absence of injured superstar Jason Taumalolo, while Te Maire Martin has been switched from five-eighth to fullback.

Jordan Kahu and Ben Hampton form a new centre duo and backrower Coen Hess returns to the starting side.

Green said Clifford, who has spent the early part of 2019 in the Intrust Super Cup playing for the Northern Pride, knows what to expect upon his return.

"He played a few games for us last year which gave him that experience so he knows what to expect which is a good thing, but the challenge for him is to stay there," Green said.

"I've spoken to Jake about what he needs to be good at, but I think when you're playing in the lower grades you can tend to drift in and out of games and get away with it, whilst still playing well.

Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford.
Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford. ©NRL Photos

"Playing first grade you don't have that luxury so all young blokes, that's probably their biggest challenge, staying in the game longer."

Green said the decision to move Kahu from fullback into the centres, made possible by the demotion of Justin O’Neill and Tom Opacic, would strengthen the Cowboys in several areas.

"Jordan's done a pretty good job for us," he said.

"There’s a fair bit of running playing fullback and then also probably just getting used to how we want to play, that's not to say I was unhappy with his game.

"The change in the halves adds another dimension from a kicking point of view. Te Maire’s fairly dangerous when he can bob up wherever he wants and then Jordie’s played a fair bit of centre, particularly on that left side."

"That's his [Martin] strength, he's very instinctive and can sniff an opportunity, so when you've got a fullback like that, that's probably the best way to come into the game."

On a positive note for the Cowboys, Green expressed hope that Taumalolo may return faster than the initial 6-10 week diagnosis announced on Monday.

"Our medical staff have got a good record of getting guys back early and that's why we tend not to put too strict a timeline on injuries because it depends on the person and depends on how hard they're prepared to work, but at this stage we're not quite sure," he said.

Green said being able to move McGuire into the No.13 jersey and add Coen Hess to the starting side was a positive for the club.

"We've got better depth [in 2019] so it's a luxury to be able to replace Jason with Josh McGuire on a permanent basis."

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National 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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