Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Dagg proves prospect for taking on kicking role

Israel Dagg is a man of many talents. He'd like to add one more trick to his repertoire, though - trusted and reliable goal-kicking.

The All Black fullback has a booming right boot that, other than one conversion against Ireland last year, had been used only for banging the ball long out of trouble.

But on Saturday, he took advantage of Tom Taylor being temporarily incapacitated midway through the second half to add a penalty to his solitary conversion. The speed at which he fetched the ball, lined it up and knocked it over suggested he was more than happy to be given his chance.

"It was right in front and I had been practising all week in front of Richie [McCaw] and Shag [Steve Hansen]," Dagg said.

"When he [McCaw] said do you want to take it, I said, 'Yeah, why not, it is right in front. I can't miss this."

Given the number of goal-kickers in the squad, it doesn't necessarily feel as if there is a pressing need for Dagg to develop that as part of his portfolio.

Dan Carter is the highest points scorer in test history, has a success rate of around 80 per cent and is one of the great pressure kickers. Aaron Cruden, while not quite in that class, has amassed 128 points; Beauden Barrett can handle himself well enough and then there is Taylor, who this year is slotting about 90 per cent of his kicks.

Yet there is a problem: all the kickers play at first-five and it means if any of them is having an off-day, to change the kicker the All Blacks have to go to the bench. If Dagg, who is once again back to his best form and assured of his No15 jersey, could be trusted to take over on those occasions when the man playing No10 is malfunctioning, it would greatly strengthen the All Blacks.

The All Blacks have had cover elsewhere in the past from Piri Weepu, but now he's out of the picture they might have to think about developing Dagg's kicking.

That would leave them less exposed and also take them in line with most other international sides. It's unusual for teams to have just one recognised goal-kicker in their starting XV. The Wallabies had Christian Leali'ifano, James O'Connor and Jesse Mogg, while the South Africans had Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar.

Dagg, who kicked regularly for the Highlanders in 2010, has the natural timing and temperament for the role - and he'd be more than happy to be given the chance.

- NZ Herald

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