Innes sees Dagg shift to centre as a waste

MATT MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
Israel Dagg
BAD MOVE? Crusaders' attack coach Aaron Mauger has said Israel Dagg is a serious contender for the midfield this season.

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Former All Blacks utility back Craig Innes believes the Crusaders should ditch any plan to experiement with Israel Dagg playing centre this season, saying it is of "great concern" for a player he regards as the best in the world.

Crusaders' attack coach Aaron Mauger confirmed yesterday that Dagg is a serious contender for the midfield this season after a cameo there during the 38-21 defeat to the Highlanders in a pre-season match in Oamaru on Friday.

He is in the No 15 shirt against the Waratahs in Sydney tomorrow.

The Press spoke to several former All Blacks "utility" backs yesterday, notably Leon MacDonald, a world-class fullback who switched to centre in the 2003 World Cup.

Some said the move may reap benefits in years to come for not only Dagg but also the All Backs but Innes wasn't one of them.

"I read that news and it was quite a surprise I'll be honest," he said.

"I'm concerned and wondering why you would want to mess with a guy who I think is the best fullback in the world.

"I don't think there is any doubting that he has the ability to play in that position. It's just why you would want to do it?

"Surely, there must be others down there who could play in that position."

Innes began his career for the All Blacks as an outside back and later switched to the midfield.

"I can't speak for Israel. He might be all for the idea and may have been considering it for some time now, but sometimes players need to make a stand.

"I can see it from their [Crusaders'] perspective; they want to have the best team possible on the paddock each week. But I would be quite concerned if it did eventuate."

All Blacks great Jeff Wilson said the move was a chance for the Crusaders' camp to take away the element of surprise should injury force their hand.

"To me it just seems like they are letting people know who is likely to be their backup centre should something happen to Robbie Fruean during the season.

"But it would be a shame to see Israel without the space he is usually afforded at fullback and I think it's pretty easy to see that he wants to stay in that position."

Former Crusader and All Black Leon MacDonald believes should Todd Blackadder and his sidekicks decide to turn arguably the world's best fullback into a centre that Dagg has all the trimmings for it to be successful.

"He's a multi-skilled player," MacDonald said.

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"And on that alone, I expect he could make it work. Changing positions isn't the sort of thing which can just happen over night, it takes time and that's in all positions."

Former All Blacks Stu Wilson said any good rugby player can make a positional switch and believes Dagg has the talent and skillset to make it work.

"Good players can develop into most positions," Wilson said.

"Sonny Bill Williams did it with very little rugby experience and it turned out to be a great success.

"Dagg has the sort of talent you can't coach, that ability to make that last pass that others wouldn't dare attempt.

"He has a great deal of rugby nous. A player who can cover more than one position well these days is of great appeal to a coach.

"And who knows, in three years time we might just be looking for another centre and it would be great to have a player of the talent of Israel Dagg standing there waiting in the wings."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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