Dagg hits half century on return from wilderness

Date published: June 17 2016

From World Cup woe to finding his feet again in Super Rugby, the road to a 50th Test cap for Israel Dagg could have been smoother.

Dagg was an intrinsic part of the All Blacks 2011 World Cup triumph, scoring five tries on the way to starting in the final against France, but four years later there was no room for him in the squad travelling to defend their crown.

That persistent leg injury which hampered his Super Rugby season ultimately left him in a race against time to convince selectors that he worth taking to England – a race which he lost.

Despite starring in plenty of Rugby World Cup promotional videos back in New Zealand, Dagg was left to watch the tournament back home. 

If he wanted to, which unsurprisingly wasn't his preference even before undergoing surgery for a dislocated shoulder he picked up playing for Hawke's Bay.

An extended holiday and thorough pre-season have seen Dagg return to action with the Crusaders playing some fine rugby. Defenders still hate to face up to him one-on-one with his feet able to do plenty of damage. He's rarely embarrassed defensively and reliable under the high ball.

Plus it takes something to shift arguably the world's best full-back in Ben Smith, also winning his 50th cap, out of position onto the wing, even if the patchy form of Julian Savea has certainly played a part.

Regardless, Dagg's form with the Crusaders deserved to see him included again by the All Blacks during this Test series, and now in his 47th start for his country he can remind those whose radar he has fallen off what a talent he is.

Dagg admitted this week that he wasn't sure if that chance would come around again. You can bet he'll savour every minute.

"Last year you kind of think "yep, time's up", he said.

"But I had to sit down, take a deep breath and reassess things. 

"I had a lot of time away from the game. When I got back I just wanted to get out there and start playing footy, and start having some fun.

"Whatever happens, happens. It's just awesome to be back in this environment and to be given another opportunity. Like I said before though, I have to go out and take it."

by Ben Coles