Gregor Paul on rugby

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Henry's radical rethink - Dagg at No 10?

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All Black Israel Dagg leaps through the challenge from Matt Evans of Canada to score. Photo / Getty Images
All Black Israel Dagg leaps through the challenge from Matt Evans of Canada to score. Photo / Getty Images

It's time for the All Blacks to do something radical - for Graham Henry to make the biggest coaching call of his career. Dan Carter has gone and taken so much hope with him.

Hand the No 10 jersey to Colin Slade and the All Blacks are relying on luck to win the World Cup. He's a good player; tidy, organised and capable. But since when was that enough for the All Blacks? Since when did that win World Cups?

In time, with more experience, Slade could mature into something special. But there isn't time. The All Blacks need a ready-made top quality No 10 by Sunday.

Piri Weepu can't be that man either - partly because he's not at that level and partly because he has to play at halfback because he's so much better than the other two options.

Aaron Cruden definitely isn't that man. He hasn't played for a month and still doesn't convince with his kicking game.

Slade, Weepu and Cruden - think of all the people who have played first five for the All Blacks and ask where would these guys respectively rank? And we expect one of them to steer the All Blacks through three of the toughest games in rugby history.

But alas...these are the options. So what is Henry to do? Well, these are the options if everyone insists on being conventional - of thinking purely inside the square.

Stay inside the square and the All Blacks will give South Africa or Australia a really tough time in the semi-final. Boy will they get close and really put the pressure on. They should definitely nail the Bronze Final game with one of those three in the navigation role.

Going outside the square presents different options. It comes with bigger risks but potentially bigger rewards. It will be horribly cruel on Slade - but no hero was ever made without encountering adversity.

The radical but potentially inspired selection at No 10 would be Israel Dagg. It reeks a little of madness to play him there but there is always that fine line between genius and insanity.

Dagg has a booming boot; he is quick off the mark and can attack the line from unconventional angles. He can tackle; he can drop into backfield to play fullback and he can pass. He's never played there before but that excites more than it concerns. He's such a gifted player, gifted sportsman with such a good temperament for the big stage, he's not likely to be thrown by the switch.

The coaches would have to be prepared to be hammered and accused of losing it - but hey, All Black fullbacks have little history of playing at fullback at World Cups.

They shouldn't worry about ripping up their contingency plan. The thing about contingency plans is that no one ever makes a proper one. The coaches never really thought Carter would be ruled out before the quarter-finals and now that he has, they have to make a plan - not assume they have to follow a contingency plan.

Remember how the Wallabies won a World Cup by switching fullback Stephen Larkham to first five. That was brave and inspired. The All Blacks can do the same with Dagg - he's a match winner; a ball player and a supreme talent. He can win the All Blacks the World Cup.

- Herald on Sunday

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