NZ Rugby World - - Rugby Championship -

In 2010 Is­rael Dagg made a hugely im­pres­sive test de­but for the All Blacks at full­back. He was young, quick, in­no­va­tive and in­stinc­tive, and he had been push­ing for higher recog­ni­tion since he made the Hawke's Bay team when he was still at school.

A year after mak­ing his de­but he usurped vet­eran Mils Mu­li­aina as the first choice full­back and lit up the World Cup with his abil­ity to break de­fences and see things no one else could.

He re­mained first choice full­back un­til 2015, when all of a sud­den his form de­serted him. The con­fi­dence had gone. The pace ap­peared to have been taken by con­stant in­jury, and in­de­ci­sion gripped him.

He didn't look the same player. He was barely able to have any in­flu­ence when he played and to no one's sur­prise, he was left out of the 2015 World Cup squad.

It ap­peared that at just 27, his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer was over. No one could see how he could turn it around. His num­ber was up – no one ex­pected to see him again in a test jersey and the ex­pec­ta­tion was that he would be head­ing o shore to cash in.

But he had surgery on a dam­aged shoul­der at the end of 2015, rested for months and, against all the odds, re­turned to ac­tion with the Cru­saders in 2016 and had wound the clock back.

He was his old self. The pace was back. His con­fi­dence re­turned. He trusted his in­stincts and he was bril­liant. The All Blacks had him back in their squad by June and he won his 50th cap against Wales, play­ing su­perbly.

“I was go­ing to make some rash de­ci­sions and leave to get away from it,” Dagg said in June 2016 about the pe­riod after the World Cup. “But I took the time to breathe. It wasn't about try­ing to prove any­one wrong or prove any­thing to any­one else. I just had to go out there and find why I play this game...and I play this game be­cause I love it. I have fun and I have fun ex­press­ing my­self, rep­re­sent­ing my fam­ily, my coun­try and the Cru­saders.”

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