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New lease of All Blacks life for Dagg

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/06/2016 Daniel Gilhooly
Israel Dagg in the Rugby Championship against Argentina in La Plata. © Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo Israel Dagg in the Rugby Championship against Argentina in La Plata.

For a while, Israel Dagg thought his Test half-century had become the impossible dream.

When the All Blacks fullback missed selection for last year's World Cup he openly vowed to fight to reclaim the All Blacks fullback jersey.

Inside it was a different story. He thought 49 Tests would be his lot.

"If I was going to be honest, yes. Last year I kind of thought, 'oh well, time's up'," he said.

The only real insight last October came via Twitter soon after his omission, when Dagg wrote: "It's been a hell of a journey, cheers."

He said at the time the tweet was misinterpreted as a retirement announcement.

However, it was only when he took a month-long trip to the United States and Central America with his partner and friends that a desire for more Test action was refuelled.

"I sat down and took a deep breath and reassessed things," he said.

"I had a lot of time away from the game and when I got back out there I just wanted to have fun."

With injuries that have dogged him for the last two years seemingly behind him, he has been in sharp form for the Crusaders.

Dagg, 28, says he felt like a new member of the national team when he rejoined them for the series against Wales, admitting it thus felt strange to sit among the veterans at the back of the bus.

He missed selection for the first Test but is promoted for the second in Wellington on Saturday after Julian Savea was dropped, sending Ben Smith from fullback to the wing.

Coach Steve Hansen revealed it was a tight choice between Dagg and Beauden Barrett to wear No.15 but says the latter's value as a bench impact player swung the decision.

Hansen expects Dagg to maximise his opportunity.

"There's not too many guys who leave the All Blacks environment and get back in it who don't change. Because you actually realise what you're missing out on," he said.

"Everyone who comes back in has an edge about them and greater desire than when they first came in."

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