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Dagg lines up All Blacks Test kicking job

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/09/2016

The 28-year-old regular fullback has already expanded his value this year, playing the last two Tests on the wing. © Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images The 28-year-old regular fullback has already expanded his value this year, playing the last two Tests on the wing. Israel Dagg has convinced the All Blacks coaches he is a viable Test goalkicking option.

Stationed for a long time among the amateurs who would take pots at goal for a laugh at the end of training sessions, the veteran outside back has been upgraded this season.

Dagg nailed a long-range penalty in the 57-22 win over Argentina in Hamilton and is keen for more opportunities, starting with this Saturday's Test against South Africa in Christchurch.

Assistant coach Ian Foster says while Dagg is still regarded as a back up to first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden, he has come a long way.

"I used to send him down the other end where the amateur kickers went, until I wanted to see how serious he is about it," Foster said.

"He's kicking the ball well. He's got a great attitude towards it. He wants to kick and it was good to see him step up and want that penalty."

Barrett and Cruden are better known for their play-making skill than goalkicking.

The revelation of 2016 with his attacking flair, first choice No.10 Barrett has been a mixed bag with his shots at goal for the Super Rugby champion Hurricanes and then at Test level.

His All Blacks return this year is a relatively modest 72 per cent (25 from 35 shots), possibly making the role vulnerable if Dagg keeps making strides. Cruden has landed nine from 14, at 65 per cent.

The 28-year-old regular fullback has already expanded his value this year, playing the last two Tests on the wing.

He was a first-choice goalkicker with the Highlanders early in his Super Rugby career but rarely got another chance after shifting to the Crusaders, where the metronomic Dan Carter held sway at domestic and Test level.

Dagg admits he has been pestering Foster to notice his ability.

"Every time he's around I just try to get the tee out and kick it in front of him," he said.

"I'm just going to keep chipping away, it's just something good to add to your bow.

"I felt with injuries and things I might get a little opportunity so I'll just keep practising and practising."

Meanwhile, Foster confirmed Blues centre George Moala has overcome an elbow injury and will probably be considered for selection against the Springboks.

Moala impressed when recalled for the third Test against Wales in June and could put pressure on Malakai Fekitoa for a starting berth.

Wing Waisake Naholo remains out with a hamstring injury while uncapped utility back Damian McKenzie has left the camp this week to rest up after suffering a head knock during Waikato's NPC game against Auckland on Sunday.

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