Israel Dagg joins growing list of All Blacks spurning northern hemisphere riches

Ben Smith (left) and Israel Dagg have both re-signed new deals with NZ Rugby. Smith agreed terms to 2020, while Dagg ...
GETTY IMAGES

Ben Smith (left) and Israel Dagg have both re-signed new deals with NZ Rugby. Smith agreed terms to 2020, while Dagg stays until 2019.


OPINION: Israel Dagg's refusal to move overseas has enabled Steve Hansen to quietly go about his task of amassing a large stockpile of test players ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Barring the players suffering injury or form fluctuations, something Dagg experienced prior to being cut from the World Cup squad for the tournament in Britain in 2015, All Blacks coach Hansen, who is contracted with New Zealand Rugby through to 2019, already has a register of battle-hardened men to choose from ahead of the global tournament in Japan.

Dagg's decision to ignore what was likely to have been multi-million dollar contracts offered by Irish club Leinster and French side Toulon, and sign with NZ Rugby until 2019, has guaranteed at least 11 key All Blacks will remain in New Zealand through to the next World Cup.

Dagg must battle Nehe Milner-Skudder (pictured) for job on the right wing
PETER MEECHAM/PHOTOSPORT

Dagg must battle Nehe Milner-Skudder (pictured) for job on the right wing

Last week Ben Smith confirmed he will stay until 2020, although there is an option of exercising an out-clause after 2019.

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Among those who are also on NZ Rugby's hot list of candidates to extend their stay are lock Sam Whitelock.
PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES

Among those who are also on NZ Rugby's hot list of candidates to extend their stay are lock Sam Whitelock.

Others signed through to until the World Cup are Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Joe Moody, Brodie Retallick, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and now Dagg.

It goes without saying that it remains a priority for NZ Rugby to lock All Blacks captain Kieran Read into a deal through to 2019. Read, whose contract expires this year, has already indicated he is aiming to remain in New Zealand.

Among those who are also on NZ Rugby's hot list of candidates to extend their stay are lock Sam Whitelock and openside flanker Sam Cane - both men's contracts are up for negotiation.

Of all the players who have chosen to stay until 2019, Dagg, 28, has arguably elected to take the biggest risk.

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In addition to competing with Ben Smith for a placement at fullback, Dagg must battle Nehe Milner-Skudder for job on the right wing if Julian Savea or Waisake Naholo can prove consistent enough with their performances to warrant automatic selection on the left flank.

Last year the absence of Milner-Skudder because of a serious shoulder injury suffered in the early rounds of Super Rugby, and a paucity of form by Savea, enabled Dagg to force his way back into the test team.

His determination and performances were admirable.

Far from being washed-up, a scenario that seemed quite possible when he was overlooked for the 2015 World Cup squad, Dagg earned the right to have his name lodged below Smith's when names were being scribbled down for the Rugby Championship and northern tour.

First five-eighth Aaron Cruden will join French club Montpellier after Super Rugby, while tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina has confirmed he will link with French side Toulouse. Both hope to be considered for the All Blacks squad selected to play the British and Irish Lions when they tour this winter.

All Blacks coach Hansen is also ready building a succession plan to build depth in both positions. Of the two it is tighthead which creates more concern. Behind incumbent rock Owen Franks, the candidates are not experienced. Ofa Tu'ungafasi, who appeared in four tests last year, is a work in progress. Nepo Laulala, who didn't play last year because of injury, earned four caps as a replacement in 2015 and showed considerable promise.

Beauden Barrett is the top-ranked playmaker in the country, with Lima Sopoaga and Damian McKenzie competing for the backup role.

Sopoaga, the preferred starter at No 10 for the Highlanders in recent years, is contracted to NZ Rugby until 2018. So is McKenzie, but he has been a regular starter at fullback for the Chiefs to accommodate team-mates Cruden.

First-five is the position the All Blacks selectors believe suits McKenzie best. This is a call for Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, who will coach in Scotland after Super Rugby, to make. McKenzie and the national selectors may have to be patient.

 

 - Stuff

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