Nervous Dagg thrives in All Blacks debut

BY DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 21:57 12/06/2010
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg
PETER MEECHAM
RUNNING AWAY: All Blacks debutant fullback Israel Dagg sprints away from the Irish cover defence after making a break in the team's first test of the year.

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Exciting debutant Israel Dagg said his nerves disappeared with his first touch of the ball as he played a major role in the All Blacks commanding win over Ireland in New Plymouth on Saturday night.

The All Blacks opened the Steinlager Series with a 66-28 win.

On a night when six players made their test debuts, Dagg had a particularly strong first-up effort at fullback.

Full of life during the week, Dagg admitted the nerves hit him on game day and he became very quiet.

But he said he was able to get into the game early and never looked back.

"Yeah, come game day I'm pretty quiet," Dagg said.

"But I got my first touch and I got a wee break and my confidence got up. I just had to do my job and things clicked.

"It was great fun out there, great to have my family there, and a great experience."

Dagg struck a good combination with his wings, particularly with Cory Jane. Their counterattack work was superb at times with Dagg beating first defenders with ease and then connecting with his support.

"I worked hard with Cory and Rocks (Joe Rokocoko) to keep the communication up. It paid off in the first half."

Dagg said the All Blacks had worked hard on getting a good start after problems in that area in recent season.

Two quick tries set up what looked like being a landslide victory. Only a sloppy period in the second half when the bench was emptied, blotted a pleasing opening effort from the All Blacks.

Dagg believed that could be remedied.

"We went away from our structures and our game plan. If we stick to the basics our second half will improve.

With Mils Muliaina likely to be available next week it will be interesting to see what the selectors do at fullback.

They certainly have an exciting alternative in the 15 jersey based on Dagg's opening effort.

Assistant coach Wayne Smith was full of praise for Dagg, saying his composure was particularly impressive.

"Some people are built for this level and he looks like he is," Smith said.

"We wanted to counter attack and he made some god decisions there. He is dangerous."

Sm"He was very good. He had the composure that we thought he would, he got us over the gain line and defended well. He would be really, really happy.

"It's a step up and the intensity is very high. Speaking to Benson afterwards he said it just didn't stop.

"I think the run out will be good for all the new boys really."

Head coach Graham Henry said it was ideal to be able to get all the new players involved. While there was a risk of the game losing shape, as it did, it was a risk worth taking.

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