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Dragons to juggle the backs against Manly

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/04/2017 Scott Bailey
Nightingale has been named at No.1 for the hamstrung Josh Dugan, but coach Paul McGregor suggested on Friday that Mann - who briefly began last year at fullback - could also fill the role. © Press Association Nightingale has been named at No.1 for the hamstrung Josh Dugan, but coach Paul McGregor suggested on Friday that Mann - who briefly began last year at fullback - could also fill the role.

Kurt Mann and Jason Nightingale will likely share the fullback role for St George Illawarra in Saturday's NRL clash with Manly.

Nightingale has been named at No.1 for the hamstrung Josh Dugan, but coach Paul McGregor suggested on Friday that Mann - who briefly began last year at fullback - could also fill the role.

"Jason is a hardened professional ... a tough type of player which is needed," McGregor said.

"Kurt has only had that one hit-out last week, so we put him in that position where he excelled last year on the left wing.

"But you might see him at times at fullback as well."

Saturday's clash at Lottoland is an unlikely battle between second and fifth, despite both teams being tipped by most to finish near the bottom of the ladder.

"By everyone except for the people who knew," McGregor joked.

The Dragons have suffered only one defeat to Parramatta in round two, while Manly have recovered with three-straight wins after dropping their first two games.

Both poor in attack in 2016, they are now two of the most efficient teams in the league inside the opposition's 20m zone.

Manly are the third-best in the league in that category, converting on one in every 8.8 plays inside the 20, while the Dragons sit second at an even better rate of 8.4.

"They're dangerous," McGregor said of Manly.

"Their change of angle on their running is good.

"They've got some quality offloaders in their team and they've got some speed."

Both also know how to defend their own line.

The Sea Eagles have been forced to make more tackles inside their own 20 than any other team this year at an average of 35.4 per game. Again, their nearest rivals are the Saints at 34.6.

But despite that, both teams have conceded less than 80 points this year to be among the league's best.

"How they defend is how we need to attack," McGregor said.

"They get line-speed and they've got a couple of blokes who like to shoot out and put pressure on you through the middle."

Meanwhile Manly coach Trent Barrett doesn't expect Dugan's short-term absence to cripple the Dragons' attack, regardless of who plays at the back.

"Whether Kurt Mann goes back to fullback or Nightingale, they're all strong carriers of the ball," Barrett said.

"Their back five have been really good for them and it gives them a good start to their sets."

STATS THAT MATTER:

* The Dragons haven't scored above eight in any of their past four visits to Manly

* Both sides average 10 errors per match this year - the equal-least in the NRL

* The Dragons have the highest completion rate in the league, at 79.7 per cent.

Source: Fox Sports Stats

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