Hawke's Bay look to fullback to spark Shield tilt

Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014
ADDED SPARK: All Black Israel Dagg is back in Hawke's Bay colours for their big Ranfurly Shield challenge against Counties-Manukau today.
NZPA /Ross Setford
ADDED SPARK: All Black Israel Dagg is back in Hawke's Bay colours for their big Ranfurly Shield challenge against Counties-Manukau today.

Relevant offers


Glen Gregory returns to rugby to coach after battling back from concussion hell Former NRL player Tupou Sopoaga joins Highlanders as injury cover Former NRL player Tupou Sopoaga to play rugby in Southland in 2017 Crowley to replace Hammett as Tasman's new assistant NPC rugby coach New Zealand Rugby chief Neil Sorensen opens up to deliver strong message on mental health New Zealand provincial rugby could be a winner in new global rugby calendar Counties Manukau Rugby wants coaches to put their hands up for high school rugby No regrets as concussion victim Sean Polwart leaves rugby with a clear head New chairperson Jane Duncan has plenty of ties to Buller rugby NZ Rugby steps up concussion battle with introduction of blue card nationwide

It's been a long time between drinks for Hawke's Bay fullback Israel Dagg.

His province is hoping his first appearance for the Magpies since a brief cameo off the bench in 2011 will bring the Ranfurly Shield home to Napier.

Dagg's demotion from the All Blacks starting side has seen him released for Hawke's Bay's match against Counties-Manukau in Pukekohe.

Magpies coach Craig Philpott said his presence at training this week had already sent the confidence levels of his teammates through the roof.

''He's a massive boost to the guys around him. He's an easy man to play alongside,'' Philpott said.

Indeed, it is not hard to imagine Dagg combining with inventive first five-eighth Ihaia West on the counter attack, or chiming in outside centre Robbie Fruean.

Dagg has a point to prove after being replaced by Ben Smith as the All Blacks first choice No 15 this June.

Since his test debut in 2010, the 29-year-old has been a stranger to his province making just three starts (in 2010) and his cameo against Bay of Plenty the following year.

For his teammates, today's challenge represents the chance to avenge their Shield loss to Counties-Manukau in Napier last season when their own reign was cut short at just six days.

But for Dagg it is an opportunity to show All Blacks coach Steve Hansen just how badly he wants his test jersey back.

In an interesting quirk, Counties-Manukau will also be looking to their fullback for some inspiration with Tim Nanai-Williams returning to captain the side after missing the first two matches following the birth of his child.

It promises to be a cracking match. Neither side has entirely convinced over the first two weeks of the competition.

Counties looked vulnerable to counter attack in holding off Otago 29-25 last week and lack lustre in drawing with Taranaki in week one.

On paper though, the Steelers have a side that could cut loose at any moment with wings Sherwin Stowers and Frank Halai and the midfield of Bundee Aki and Re Lee-Lo.

Championship side Hawke's Bay come into the match on a high after a valuable win over Taranaki. A second consecutive Premiership scalp would be gold.

The Magpies backline also appeals with West, Andrew Horrell, Fruean and Richard Buckman providing plenty of experience and veterans Jason Shoemark and Matt Berquist in reserve.

The battle up front looks an even one and in the end it could come down to which side embraces the pressure of the moment.

Ad Feedback

Hawke's Bay coach Craig Philpott said his senior players had passed on stories about last year's brief Shield tenure to the younger players and there was a collective will to write another chapter.

However, the main focus was on knocking over another Premiership side and keeping their Championship aspirations on track.

- The Dominion Post

Special offers
Opinion poll

What did you make of this year's ITM Cup?

It was as good a season as I can remember.

It was great to see the smaller provinces perform well.

I caught the odd game here and there.

Sorry, it was an utter snore-fest.

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content