An adage that has stood the test of time, “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees,” has a different interpretation for All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg, who has found himself out of the game permanently due to a knee problem that has prevented him from not only playing Test, but also for the Super Rugby Crusaders.
Dagg proved adaptable after stepping in to replace Mils Muliaina as the starting fullback for the All Blacks in the middle of the successful 2011 World Cup campaign. When he could no longer run with the pace and elusiveness that had provided highlight-reel tries, he became adept at winning balls in the air and punting from long distances.
Commenting on Dagg’s retirement from all football, NZR chief executive Steve Tew said, “He leaves us as one of the greats of our game and the second most capped All Blacks fullback of all time. He was an excitement machine on the rugby field and fans knew that when he got the ball in his hands that anything could happen.”
Not one to pout over his misfortune, Dagg served as a mentor for younger Crusaders backliners and Crusaders’ coach Scott Robertson credited Dagg’s tutoring as a significant contribution in keeping the Super Rugby champions in front of the opposition.
The 30-year-old Dagg started in 2006 and no doubt picked up some of his fleetness of foot from growing up in a household with four sisters either needing tormenting, or supplying the same to Israel.
He has 66 Test caps with New Zealand and averaged 2.09 points. He provided similar figures for 89 appearances with the Crusaders, so he is not the sort who will be easily replaced, even in a country where rugby players seemingly emerge fully formed from the womb.