Franks, Dagg re­turn to Cru­saders lineup

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - RICHARD KNOWLER

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.

STUFF

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.

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