Hansen hits back at Dagg critics

Date published: July 15 2015

Steve Hansen has given his backing to Israel Dagg, who will start for New Zealand against Argentina on Friday.

The All Black full-back has endured a difficult season, with a calf injury limiting him to just five games for the Crusaders during the Super Rugby season.

With Ben Smith in the Super Rugby final, Dagg started against Samoa, but looked rusty. However Hansen believes it is simply down to a lack of game time, and expects the 27-year-old to improve against the Pumas.

And while Smith will likely come back in as first choice once he's fully recovered from his efforts with the Highlanders, Hansen insists Dagg is not facing his last chance.

"I don't think it's his [Dagg's] last chance… I have heard that story a few times and he has ended-up coming back into form," Hansen said ahead of the Test against Argentina.

"Israel's problem at the moment is that he hasn't had any games. It is a big ask to come back and play Test rugby, but we don't have any other option if we want to get him to the level of performance that he can produce.

"We have got a lot of confidence in him and he should have a lot of confidence in himself."

While Dagg comes into the game under pressure, his Crusaders teammate Codie Taylor will face a very different sort of scrutiny as he prepares for a Test debut off the bench.

Battling with Hika Elliot for the third hooker spot in the All Black World Cup squad in the absence of the injured Nathan Harris, Taylor has come out of nowhere to get a shot at the Test side.

"Nathan Harris looked like he was going to be pretty handy, but unfortunately got injured and hasn't come back from that injury," said Hansen.

"Codie Taylor has worked hard. He was only 103kg 12 months ago but he is 109-110kg. He is the size of an international hooker. He just needs to get an opportunity.

"It is one thing to be a good athlete but he is a tight-five player and he has to get down and dirty at times too. That's what we love about Colesy (Dane Coles and Kevvie (Keven Mealamu) and that's what we are looking for in the third one, too. We know that is a formula that works for us."