Israel Dagg keeps a promise to Blackadder
Israel Dagg has re-signed with the Crusaders for two years.
Despite speculation the All Blacks fullback might be wooed away to another franchise before inking his new deal with the New Zealand Rugby Union, Dagg has fulfilled his promise to Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder to return.
It is understood the paperwork was signed within the last week.
Two other All Blacks, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock, are negotiating their NZRU deals and their return to the Crusaders is expected to be a formality.
Although Blackadder was always confident Dagg would remain in Christchurch it did little to dampen guesswork about whether he would move and there was speculation he could head to the Blues.
"Of course we are delighted Israel will be back," Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said. "We always knew he would come back and had no doubts he would honour his handshake deal with Todd."
The immediate challenge for the Crusaders will now be to extract the best out of the 24-year-old after a disappointing Super season.
This has not been reflected during his time with the All Blacks. Although quiet in last weekend's 21-5 win over Argentina, Dagg has continued the fine form he displayed during last year's World Cup under new coach Steve Hansen.
Although Blues coach John Kirwan had denied chasing Dagg, he has expressed an interest in signing All Blacks prop Ben Franks, who has asked for a release from his Crusaders contract.
However, Kirwan, who surprisingly lost All Blacks loosehead prop Tony Woodcock to the Highlanders, may have made his run too late to secure Franks.
The Hurricanes and Highlanders have got the hop on the Blues; their negotiations are advanced and they have already tabled deals to the player's agent.
Although the Highlanders were initially believed to be leading the race to secure his signature, the odds have changed and the Wellington-based franchise may succeed in grabbing their man.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was on Robbie Deans' staff when Franks joined the Crusaders in 2006 and became more closely associated with the front rower when promoted to replace Vern Cotter as assistant coach.
Kirwan is now looking to fill the vacancy opened by Woodcock's departure but Franks, who wants to specialise at tighthead, could be reluctant to head to a side who already have another international, Charlie Faumuina, capable of operating in the No 3 jersey.
It is also believed Kirwan is targeting Canterbury's Johnny McNicholl who is capable at fullback and wing.
McNicholl, a member of the Crusaders' wider training group this year, could assist Kirwan in blocking the gaps created by the departure of former All Blacks Isaia Toeava and Rudi Wulf to Japan and France.
With Dagg and wings Zac Guildford, Adam Whitelock and Sean Maitland all signed to the Crusaders, McNicholl may feel his chances of getting regular time at the franchise - if selected in the squad - will be limited.
Kirwan has signed flanker Brendon O'Connor and sounded out lock Dominic Bird, who were also in the Crusaders' wider training group.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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