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Young guns Clifford, Taulagi setting their sights higher

Cowboys coach Paul Green has been patiently waiting for it to happen and now Jake Clifford has shown he can step up and control a game, the young half wants to keep repeating the dose.

Clifford was all class on Sunday when he led the Cowboys to a 15-12 defeat against the Roosters, sealing the game with a field goal before landing a penalty goal after the full-time siren.

Green has persevered with the rising star in his first full season at Telstra Premiership level despite some up-and-down performances and Clifford said he took a lot of confidence out of his efforts in upsetting the premiers.

"Yeah, definitely, but I need to back it up now and that’s my challenge on Saturday," he said.

Without his regular halves partner, captain Michael Morgan who was out due to concussion, Clifford took it upon himself to be the dominant playmaker for North Queensland.

"Yeah, I definitely had to take on that role a lot more, being more of the kicker as well," he said.

"Johnny [Asiata] chipped in when he needed to kick, but I love taking on the role of the kicking duties and getting my hands on the ball in yardage and in good ball. I thought I did that and hopefully I can continue doing that this week.

Cowboys v Rabbitohs - Round 18

"I really enjoy having that halfback role, especially without Morgo. I can take more control."

Morgan has been named on the extended bench for the clash against the Rabbitohs at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Clifford will come up against South Sydney's star half Adam Reynolds on Saturday.

"He's got a very good kicking game and when he's on song he puts some teams under the pump, especially with his kicking and controlling game. So, as a team, we're going to have to put a bit of pressure on him and [Cody] Walker," he said.

Murray Taulagi will make his NRL debut for the Cowboys and Clifford said he could not wait to see his former under 20s teammate on the big stage.

"I'm very excited to see what Muzz can do for us. He’s a very big winger, he's a freak when he's on, so hopefully he can bring that on Saturday," he said.

"He's definitely a kick target for us, he can get at it high in the air and he's a very damaging runner out of the yardage and close to the line, so that's something we'll be trying to do for him."

Clifford, who made his debut last year, had some words of advice for Taulagi.

"I guess not to play the game a bit too early in your head," he said.

"You can start to think about the game quite early and start trying to think of how things are going to pan out. I would just say stay calm and really enjoy it. Being back home, it's such a great place to debut and soak it all in."

Clifford nails the field goal for the upset win

Taulagi was "buzzing" when Green revealed he wanted him to be in the team.

"Greeny told me one on one after our meeting with the team. And then I couldn’t stop smiling walking around the club. I gave my missus and my Mum and Dad a call. They said they’re very proud of what I've achieved so far, and just want me to work hard and keep moving forward," Taulagi said.

"It's very special. It's my first league club, I’ve been here for three years, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me."

The 20-year-old Otahuhu rugby union junior never imagined making the switch to league.

"It’s been pretty tough, it’s not as physical as rugby union, but definitely a challenge I'm ready to take on," Taulagi said.

Murray Taulagi in action for Queensland under 20s.
Murray Taulagi in action for Queensland under 20s. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Taulagi was one of the better players in Queensland’s under-20 team’s loss to NSW last week.

He trained alongside Dane Gagai in Maroons camp and now faces the Queensland winger.

"It was unfortunately not the result we wanted but I trained against him [Gagai]. It’ll be good to go up against him this weekend," he said.

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