The forgotten man in New Zealand rugby has well and truly made his mark on his return to the game, as Israel Dagg scored two tries in the Crusaders’ 32-15 win over the Jaguares in Christchurch.
After being overlooked for the All Blacks World Cup squad last year, and after missing the first seven weeks of this season with a dislocated shoulder, Canterbury full-back Dagg was electrifying on his return to Super Rugby, with his two tries and try assist to scrum half Andy Ellis were enough to see off a gallant Jaguares side at AMI Stadium.
Centre Ryan Crotty got on the scoresheet in his 100th Super Rugby game while outhalf Richie Mo’unga and All Blacks captain Kieran Read also added scores, but the night undoubtedly belonged to Dagg who dazzled in his first professional game in over six months.
If the Manawatu native was deemed surplus to requirements at last year’s World Cup, then he must have been viewed as a complete afterthought given the breakthrough season that Damian McKenzie has had at full-back for the Super Rugby-leading Chiefs this season.
Incumbent Ben Smith will be hard to displace from the All Blacks’ starting XV and McKenzie is almost certain to feature in some capacity in the upcoming mid-season tests against Wales, but if All Blacks coach Steve Hansen thought that Dagg’s international career may have been coming to an end, then Friday evening in Christchurch will serve as a timely reminder of just what Dagg is capable of.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena
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