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Cowboys five-eighth Jake Clifford.

The task of steering the North Queensland Cowboys to a third win on the trot and keeping their momentum going will fall to 21-year-old halfback Jake Clifford as injury and Origin duty force Paul Green into a major reshuffle.

Victories over Parramatta at home and the Raiders on the road have lifted the Cowboys to 11th on the ladder but life gets a whole lot tougher on the Gold Coast on Sunday with captain Michael Morgan and forward Josh McGuire in Maroons camp and Justin O'Neill and Matt Scott out injured.

Clifford lines up for his sixth game of 2019 alongside John Asiata in the halves, confronting a Titans pair of Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor riding high after taking down Manly in round 11. 

“There's no doubt Jake's got the talent and the ability, he just needs to have that belief in himself and get a bit of confidence," Green said.

"For him it's a case of getting some good plays in the game, feeling comfortable and enjoying it."

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The Cowboys were left rattled by the spleen injury suffered by O'Neill, who underwent emergency surgery on Sunday and must remain in Canberra until the end of the week when he will be re-assessed.

The veteran centre had been in great form and his experience would have been vital in Morgan's absence.

Mitch Dunn will shift from the back row to the centres to fill the void and Green is confident the 22-year-old's versatility will come to the fore.

“Dunny’s done really well every time he's been given a task in first grade and he's played in a number of different positions and come up to the mark there every time," Green said.

"He's a good young kid, he's a competitor and a pretty smart footballer, too.

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“He’s played a little bit of centre in his younger days and played a bit against Souths in the centres so far this year.”

Green, meanwhile, said he was hopeful O'Neill would play again this year but it was "probably a little bit early to tell".

“The operation went as well as can be expected," Green said.

"He's getting monitored over the next couple of days just to make sure that doesn't bleed again, but it all went really well. Once he gets out of that danger period, he'll be flying home.

“He was certainly back to his best. I think he’s scored eight tries so far this year, so he had plenty confidence and probably put himself back in the frame for rep stuff so it's a shame for him."

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In other changes, Scott Bolton replaces Matt Scott, who is expected to miss between 3-6 weeks with a shoulder complaint.

“Matt's got some damage there in the shoulder but it's not too bad and we'll be looking to rehab it and get him back on the paddock as soon as he gets his strength back," Green said.

Green expressed surprise that Jordan McLean was overlooked by Blues selectors and he expects the eight-Test prop to make a statement against the Titans.

“Hopefully it's a bit of motivation for him," Green said.

"Before he injured his foot  last year he was probably the first prop picked for Australia. I thought he would've been well and truly in the frame for NSW."

After missing the Canberra game with a groin injury Coen Hess will be out to press his Maroons claims with a strong game, while hooker Jake Granville is also in the frame for a call-up at some point during the series. 


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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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