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Dragons premiership-winning winger Jason Nightingale believes the gap between the Kiwis and the Kangaroos is getting smaller as the sides prepare for their Four Nations showdown next week.

With both teams posting wins in their Four Nations opening round clashes last weekend, the stage is set for their final round clash on Saturday week (Nov 6) in Auckland to be a Finals preview for the following week in Brisbane (Nov 13).

Nightingale, who won the contentious right wing spot for New Zealand’s opener against England on Saturday, said depth was the biggest factor for the 2008 World Cup winners in closing the gap on Australia.

“We have a lot more frontline international players than in past years,” Nightingale said. “Depth is the biggest thing. “A lot has come from the scouting of players for the NRL. There are a lot of good players from New Zealand now playing in the Australian system. The opportunities at home are limited with just the Warriors.”

Despite winning the 2008 World Cup, the Kiwis had a disappointing 2009 Four Nations campaign suffering an upset loss to England to miss the Final.

They were determined not to suffer the same fate this year and beat England 24-10 on Saturday, while Australia accounted for Papua New Guinea 42-0.

Unless the Kumuls upset the Kiwis this Saturday and England beat the Kangaroos on Sunday then Australia and New Zealand will square off in the 2011 Final.

“We have taken a lot of confidence off the back of that win in 2008,” Nightingale said. “We are stronger now than we were then … and two years older and more experienced.

“When we played England over there last year there was probably a level of complacency. We didn’t expect them to come back as hard as they did.

“Our preparation has been a lot better this time though. It is a lot easier when it is in your home country.”

While Nightingale said the Kiwis “probably don’t get as much respect as they deserve”, he agreed the Kangaroos deserved to be favorites for this tournament because of their 2009 Four Nations win and Anzac Test victory this year.

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