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All Blacks fullback spot opens for Dagg

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 23/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Israel Dagg of New Zealand (L) at Simon Zebo of Ireland (R) during the International match between Ireland and New Zealand All Blacks at Aviva Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. © Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Israel Dagg of New Zealand (L) at Simon Zebo of Ireland (R) during the International match between Ireland and New Zealand All Blacks at Aviva Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. Ben Smith's broken finger may just have given All Blacks winger Israel Dagg a hand.

Dagg, 28, lines up at fullback for Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders and was a long-term Test option in the No.15 jumper until he was left out of last year's World Cup squad.

Returning to the fold in 2016, Dagg has typically found himself on the right edge, with the ever-reliable Smith holding the fort at the back.

But the Highlanders skipper's broken finger, sustained in last weekend's 21-9 win over Ireland, has reopened the door for Dagg in his favoured position on Saturday against France.

It's one of three options at No.15 for coach Steve Hansen, who can also shift Beauden Barrett from first five-eighth or call up livewire Damian McKenzie.

Dagg, for his part, was only concerned with producing his best for his country.

"Where the team needs you to play, you've just got to play, you've got to step up and front," Dagg told reporters on Tuesday.

"I'll be champing at the bit to get out there, as long as I'm playing I'll be happy."

Famously fickle opponents, Les Bleus have failed to defeat the All Blacks in their last nine attempts but continue to haunt Kiwi rugby fans for their role in the 1999 and 2007 World Cups.

In both tournaments the All Blacks were heavy favourites to lift the Webb Ellis, only to crash out in the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively by French hands.

However the side went some way to burying those demons last year, thumping France 62-13 in their Cardiff quarter-final rematch.

Dagg said the past no longer burdened the side, as they look to end a near-flawless 2016 Test campaign on the right note.

The whole squad would need to resist daydreaming of their holiday plans and stick to the day-to-day routine that has served them well so far.

"I know when I've played the French, it's always a tough battle, they always seem to bring their A-game and are always full of surprises," Dagg said.

"They'll be hurting, we've felt what that's like, and they'll bring a lot of pressure and passion."

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