Franks, Dagg return to Crusaders lineup
All Blacks Owen Franks and Israel Dagg will finally fire-up their engines in Super Rugby on Saturday.
While that news won’t encourage a burst of enthusiastic applause by the win-less Sunwolves, the fact tighthead prop Franks and fullback/wing Dagg are finally set to represent the Crusaders in Christchurch will generate a much warmer response from multiple parties in New Zealand.
No-one will be more pleased than Franks and Dagg themselves.
The pair haven’t played firstclass rugby for eight and seven months respectively, not since All Blacks coach Steve Hansen declared they must take an enforced break to attend to injuries: Franks required surgery on an Achilles tendon, and Dagg had to rehabilitate a serious knee problem.
Each has rubbed shoulders with the amateur warriors in club footy over the last two weekends and Franks, whose CV is loaded with 95 test appearances, is straining at the leash.
‘‘People need to understand the injury he had – if you could imagine waking-up with a rock in your shoe, and walking with it every day like he was last year,’’ Crusaders assistant forwards coach Jason Ryan said. ‘‘He played through a bit of pain and no-one probably would have known.
‘‘But he has rehabbed incredibly well. He was still in a moon boot and we were doing binding drills in the gym. That is how dedicated he is.’’
Given the amount of stress his Achilles tendons have been subjected to, a consequence of packing down countless scrums during his career, Franks will be relieved to function without discomfort.
Ryan said the repaired left tendon should guarantee the 30-year-old more longevity in the game – a welcome statement given the large contingent of Super Rugby props that are currently injured in New Zealand.
‘‘He is definitely better than he was,’’ Ryan noted. ‘‘Just running from A to B, he has got more pop in him and he is probably the strongest he has ever been.’’
Dagg, too, has been slowly progressing to peak fitness. He has been a regular at Crusaders trainings for over a month, and played around 60 minutes for his University club last weekend.
Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson will reveal tomorrow whether to ask Dagg to start at fullback or the right wing, or give him minutes off the bench.
The update on All Blacks loosehead prop Joe Moody was not near as rosy.
Ryan confirmed Moody, who fractured a finger playing for his club on April 7, will extend his time on sideline and won’t be seen until next month. Moody hasn’t played since requiring surgery on his right shoulder in September, but Ryan was optimistic he would represent the Crusaders prior to the All Blacks’ test series against France in June.
‘‘He is going to be [unavailable for] three to six weeks,’’ Ryan stated. ‘‘We are just a little bit unsure at the moment. He is not going to need an operation.’’
Loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett is still working his way through concussion protocols after suffering a head knock against the Lions on April 2.
Given the shortage of fit test looseheads, it could make sense for Crockett to come out of retirement for test duty. But he didn’t attend the All Blacks’ Foundation Day – for South Island players only – in Christchurch on Monday, with Ryan noting he was still recovering from concussion.
Centre Jack Goodhue is expected to take a couple of weeks to recover from the hamstring injury he picked-up against the Lions. First fiveeighth Richie Mo’unga, who fractured his jaw on March 3, trained with the squad on Tuesday but will not play for his club this weekend.
Israel Dagg, left, and Owen Franks will lineup against the Sunwolves on Saturday. Franks returns after surgery on an Achilles tendon, ande Dagg after rehabilitating a serious knee problem.