ABs lack incentive to perform, says Blackadder
Israel Dagg's dumping has fuelled speculation that some established All Blacks are taking their Super Rugby duties too lightly.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder's decision to drop Dagg to the reserves for Sunday afternoon's match against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium has again highlighted this touchy subject.
Do the All Blacks, knowing the national selectors are prepared to pick them on past performances in the black jersey, not feel enough pressure to perform for their franchises? It is an issue that worries Blackadder.
Having declared under-performing fullback Dagg had been replaced by Tom Taylor, Blackadder is concerned some internationals cruise at Super Rugby level because they already know a place has been reserved in the All Blacks squad.
"That's always the danger," Blackadder said. "I know he [Dagg] wants to be playing well for this team and we want him to be playing well.
"The danger is he doesn't think he has to play well in order to be an All Black if that is the message [they get from the national selectors]."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has already hinted Dagg's struggle to strike top form were not causing undue anxiety. The fullback, he noted, was the sort of player who performs best on the big occasions.
Dagg is not the only under-performing All Black that is expected to get an automatic pass back into the national side.
Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu have struggled to add value to the win-less Highlanders, while team-mates Andrew Hore and Aaron Smith have not played to their full potential.
All are expected to be added to be involved in the series against France.
Last month Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph lost patience with Smith when he relegated him to the reserves against the Brumbies and the halfback, when he took the field in the second spell, adding some spark this game and scored a try.
Blackadder will be hoping Dagg does the same in Canberra.
Last year the Crusaders coaches were clearly frustrated when Dagg exploded into hot form against the Irish last June after struggling to match that enthusiasm for their side.
"He is going to have to play well to get his confidence back but if the only time he does that is at international level we are setting him up to fail," Blackadder added.
"He just has to think about what he has to do to get his game on track. He has made so many changes, he is trying hard and he cares but he just hasn't been following it up with his performances."
Dagg can be the world's best fullback when he combines his counter-attacking flair with his ability to take the high ball and defend accurately.
Such memorable displays are usually with the All Blacks - not the Crusaders.
"The danger with these messages is that it is what they hear - if he doesn't [think he has] to play well to be an All Black ... well he is going to have to play well to be a Crusader," Blackadder said.
"In our team you are not an All Black. You are just a Crusader. We have certain standards and there is a level of performance that must be met. "
Blackadder made several other changes to the side to face the Brumbies.
Dan Carter returns to start at first five-eighth for the first time since the March 23 fixture against the Kings. Loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett and halfback Andy Ellis are also back. Ryan Crotty and Robbie Fruean form the midfield pairing.
Crusaders: Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, George Whitelock (c), Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Andy Ellis, Dan Carter, Zac Guildford, Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean, Tom Marshall, Tom Taylor. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Jordan Taufua, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Israel Dagg.