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Israel Dagg On Mental Health Struggles: “I Hated Rugby”

Former All Black, Israel Dagg has opened up the mental health struggles that almost forced him out of the game.

The 30-year-old former Crusaders player who retired from rugby last week due to a chronic knee injury claims to have entered into a severe mental health battle after missing out on selection for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Speaking to the All Blacks podcast on Tuesday, Dagg spoke of the emotional rollercoaster he went through following his exclusion claiming he hated rugby at the time.

“I was down, I hated rugby,

Wellington , New Zealand - 1 July 2017; Israel Dagg of New Zealand during the Second Test match between New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

“I was walking down the street and I would look at people and think to myself ‘he’s looking at me going ‘you’re a pussy’ and ‘you’re so useless’. I was like, ‘nah I shouldn’t be feeling like this’.”

Dagg – who made 66 appearances for New Zealand over seven years. – admitted he almost quit the game following his exclusion in 2015, however, with the help of friends and family he was able to rediscover his passion for the game.

“Having that close support network to get through those times was crucial. As men, we don’t talk and we need to talk,” he said.

“You can’t bottle it up and do everything on your own. It is too hard and it will weigh you down,

“If there is one thing I’ve learned it is just to talk to people. It’s OK to cry.

“I’ve had moments when I’ve cried to my best mates and I’ve cried to my wife and there’s some people out there that might think I’m a pussy and weak, but I don’t care. People cry and need to share their emotions.”

Dagg would eventually return to the New Zealand set-up in 2016 before scoring 10 tries in 12 games in what proved to be one of the most successful seasons of his career.

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