All Black full-back Israel Dagg believes his fine form is down to rediscovering his love for the game once again which led to him being picked in the world champions’ squad to face Wales.
Dagg, once a potent striking force for the All Blacks battled last season. He was hampered with a shoulder injury and due to some stiff competition, missed out on the New Zealand Rugby World Cup squad.
But after some hard work, and playing behind an impressive Crusaders team, he has rediscovered some form .
“I had a big pre-season with the trainers, working really hard – running up and down the paddock every day, all day, every week,… Lots of rehab,” Dagg told The New Zealand Herald.
“To be honest, I had a lot of time by myself to get my mind right and find the love of why I play the game.”
Dagg believes professionalism and forgetting to have fun when playing rugby made him lose his edge.
“Probably over the last couple of years, I lost that, I took it too seriously,” he explained.
“I lost my smile and the love, and I wasn’t having fun. And when you’re thinking too much you’re missing opportunities.”
“When you’re young, you do no analysis, you don’t look at any other teams. You see a hole, you run at it, and if you see space, you try to get the ball there.
“I just tried to keep it simple this year and if I got the ball, I backed myself and was confident.”
The 27-year-old believes his work isn’t done yet as donning the black jersey is the real honour.
“The hard work starts now, though,” he said.
“Making the squad is awesome but the next thing is playing in that jersey and representing your country and getting out there with Reado (Kieran Rread) and the boys.
“I owe it to the Crusaders. They’ve been playing some exciting footy and they’ve given me an opportunity to play the same way, so I’m happy and grateful.”
The 2011 World Cup winner didn’t have high hopes of being called up into the New Zealand squad.
“I didn’t really expect it,” said Dagg.
“You always want to be confident you’re going to get there but whatever happens, happens. I’ve felt that disappointment before, so I just wanted to keep chipping away and working hard.”
Dagg has had an excellent season so far scoring five tries and given three assists in six games.