Dagg recalled by the Crusaders in wing role

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 13:39 06/03/2014
Israel Dagg
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
UNFAMILIAR ROLE: Israel Dagg's has surprisingly been named on the left wing for Saturday's Super Rugby match against the Stormers.

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Israel Dagg has surprisingly been named on the left wing for Saturday night's Super Rugby match against the Stormers in Christchurch.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made seven changes to the side humbled 34-25 by the Blues at Eden Park last weekend, with the main discussion point around his decision to retain Colin Slade at fullback and shunt Dagg, the All Blacks incumbent No 15, on to the wing.

Following an indifferent performance in the Crusaders' opening loss to the Chiefs in Christchurch Dagg was dropped to the bench for the Blues match.

He took the field in the second half but with Slade left at fullback, he was required on the wing.

''It was a bit of a surprise but I want to be playing rugby,'' Dagg said in reference to being named in the No 11 jersey. ''If it is on the wing or at fullback I just do what the coaches want and hopefully do the best job out there.''

Dagg is no stranger to playing on the left wing for the Crusaders, having started there in the opening round loss to the Blues last year. He has also been selected on the wing for the All Blacks.

But don't dare believe this selection will not generate heated debate by those Crusaders supporters who are anxious about their team failing to nab a single competition point from their opening two matches.

Blackadder stated his decision to not play Dagg in his specialist position was driven by his belief that Slade's performance against the Blues warranted re-selection at fullback.

Some may say Slade is very fortunate to earn such praise from his boss; although he scored a try he was also involved in a mix-up with Reynold Lee-Lo that led to crucial turnover and, eventually, a try to the Blues and missed several covering tackles.

Injuries to Zac Guildford, who Blackadder said hurt his back in the gym this morning, and Nafi Tuitavake (hamstring) compromised his range of fit wings to pick from.

Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo, who arrived late in the pre-season after being in Japan, is going to play for the Crusaders development team at the weekend and may be considered for the match against the Rebels in Melbourne.

''I'm comfortable (with the decision),'' Dagg added. ''Wing is pretty similar to fullback - probably the defence is a lot different but I have been working hard at it. So come Saturday, hopefully I will nail it.''

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Blackadder defended the decision to start Dagg on the wing.

''We have got a few injuries there (on the wing) and we just felt that with the way Colin Slade played last week that he's too good to be on the bench.

''He did everything right, everything we asked him to do. And Israel came off the bench and played on the wing. He just wants to play.

''It will probably be more the media that focus on him playing out of position but that's not such a big deal when it comes to getting an opportunity to go out and play.''

Johnny McNicholl has been added to the right wing and Rob Thompson has dropped right out of the 23. Blackadder has resisted chopping-up his midfield by retaining Ryan Crotty and Lee-Lo. Tom Taylor is again at first five-eighth.

With Richie McCaw gone for two months with a fractured thumb, Matt Todd gets his first start of the year at No 7.

Luke Romano replaces fellow All Blacks lock Dominic Bird and Wyatt Crockett comes in for loosehead prop Tim Perry.

CRUSADERS: Colin Slade, Johnny McNicholl, Reynold Lee-Lo, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Tom Taylor, Willi Heinz, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Tim Perry, Nepo Laulala, Dominic Bird, Jordan Taufua, Andy Ellis, Adam Whitelock, Kieran Fonotia.

- Reuters

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