Jason Nightingale's international ambitions

RUGBY LEAGUE 

On the outer during New Zealand's failed World Cup campaign, winger Jason Nightingale can send a timely reminder to Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney on Saturday.

Nightingale's international ambitions suffered a setback last year because of the remarkable rise of premiership-winning Roosters player Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

But after Dragons teammate Brett Morris scored two tries in Australia's thumping 34-2 win in the final at Old Trafford, Nightingale faces a head-to-head battle with man mountain Manu Vatuvei at Kogarah for selection in the Anzac Test on May 2.

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Nightingale played in the gripping World Cup semi-final win over England, but was left to watch from the sidelines when Vatuvei proved his fitness for the decider.

While a Saturday twilight game may struggle to capture the big-game atmosphere of next week's Anzac Day clash, the showdown with some of his Kiwi teammates and selection rivals adds extra significance for Nightingale.

"It's definitely a big occasion when you go to play the Warriors," he said.

"It's good to have a game against a team that has a lot of Kiwis in it.

"I think you can see from the Bulldogs game last weekend, they've improved already and gained an extra spring in their step.

"We're definitely going to have to shut down their attack and come up with lots of plays in attack to pierce their defence."

Following Jarryd Hayne's impressive World Cup campaign in the centres, Josh Dugan is the front runner to wear the NSW No 1 jersey as the Blues attempt to break Queensland's almost decade-long dominance of State of Origin.

Dugan, who missed the first month of the NRL season because of a knee injury suffered in the Charity Shield, is starting to show the game-breaking ability it will take to topple the Maroons.

In the controversial loss to the Storm in Melbourne last Monday, Dugan made 10 tackle breaks and ran for 215 metres.

He also set up Trent Merrin's second-half try, albeit after the video referee contentiously ruled Dugan wasn't offside.

However, Dugan has yet to allow his focus to shift to the Origin arena, amid a three-game losing streak for the Dragons.

"I wasn't too worried about rep footy when I first came back [from injury]," he said.

"I just wanted to get back and play good footy and whatever came after that was a bonus.

"I'm hoping [to be picked for NSW], but in saying that, there's still four or five weeks before Origin and anything can happen.

"It's all about doing the little things right and make sure I'm fit every week to play the best footy I can."

Dugan is hopeful of NSW coach Laurie Daley finding room for himself and Hayne for Origin I in Brisbane on May 28.

"Haynesy's a great player, he's in good form and he's a senior player as well," Dugan said.

In the aftermath of the Dragons' loss to the Storm - their third consecutive NRL defeat after winning their first three games - Nightingale maintained the faith about a return to the top eight.

"We always knew the last three weeks would be really tough and sitting 3-3 is not the end of the world," he said after playing the Storm, Rabbitohs and Broncos.

"If you go to four losses and three wins, you're in the bottom half of the table and you don't want that happening."

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