Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Dagg fails fitness test as Super 15 resumes

Israel Dagg will miss Saturday's match against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Dagg will miss Saturday's match against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images

The Crusaders will take the field against the Hurricanes on Saturday without All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg, who has failed to recover from his ankle sprain.

Dagg will join fellow All Blacks and Crusaders teammate Daniel Carter on the sidelines in Christchurch after the first-five was ruled out earlier in the week by the hamstring strain which kept him out of the third test against Ireland in Hamilton.

Another casualty is likely to be No8 Kieran Read, who will sit out at least another week due to his concussion injury suffered in the second test in Christchurch.

Dagg had refused to rule himself out but will not be in the team when it is announced today.

The Hurricanes have also been hit by injuries to wing Cory Jane, who has an ankle problem, halfback TJ Perenara - still in Brisbane after an operation on his broken ankle - and All Blacks loose forward Victor Vito, who has a knee injury.

Openside flanker Jack Lam, who has a minor hamstring strain, has been bracketed with Karl Lowe. Chris Eaton is at halfback and Brad Shields at No8.

An obvious replacement for Dagg would have been Tasman fullback Tom Marshall, but a serious shoulder injury suffered in club rugby has ruled him out, and Sean Maitland could be drafted into the last line of defence. Tom Taylor or Tyler Bleyendaal are options at first-five, with either Richie McCaw or Luke Whitelock to wear Read's No8 jersey.

Dagg, who scored a try after spraining his ankle in the second half at Waikato Stadium, stayed on the field, but the joint remains painful. He will be a big loss to the Crusaders, who are second in the New Zealand conference and looking for maximum points to keep the pressure on the table-topping Chiefs.

While the Hurricanes have been boosted by the return of their new All Blacks, including wing Julian Savea, who scored a hat-trick on debut in the first test against Ireland, and first-five Beauden Barrett, outstanding as a replacement in Hamilton last weekend, the Crusaders welcome back lock Luke Romano, who also played well at Waikato Stadium.

Super Rugby action returns after a three-week break with tomorrow night's match between the Highlanders and Chiefs in Dunedin. The Highlanders will be at full-strength, with flanker James Haskell, who played for England in their 14-14 draw against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth in the weekend, available for the southerners.

Haskell tweeted on his arrival back in New Zealand on Tuesday: "Finally back in NZ this morning, after the longest flights and layovers ever. Not feeling fresh. Amazing experience with England, though.''

Aaron Cruden, who aggravated an Achilles tendon injury in his short but scintillating appearance for the All Blacks in the weekend, will play for the Chiefs, who are boosted further by a flood of fellow in-form All Blacks in Sonny Bill Williams, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Liam Messam. Perhaps surprisingly, coach Dave Rennie has decided to leave openside flanker Cane on the reserves bench in favour of Tanerau Latimer.

The Highlanders will name their team today.

The Blues, last on the table, have a bye this weekend.

Hurricanes team to play Crusaders at AMI Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Chris Eaton, Brad Shields, Jack Lam/Karl Lowe, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Reg Goodes. Reserves: Moto Matu'u, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Karl Lowe/Mark Reddish, Frae Wilson, Tusi Pisi, Jayden Haward.

Crusaders team: Wyatt Crockett, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, George Whitelock, Matt Todd, Richie McCaw (c), Andy Ellis, Tom Taylor, Zac Guildford, Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean, Adam Whitelock, Sean Maitland.

Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Owen Franks, Tom Donnelly / Ross Kennedy, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Patrick Osborne.

Chiefs team to play Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow, kick off 7.35pm: Robbie Robinson, Tim Nanai-Williams, Jackson Willison, Sonny Bill Williams, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kane Thompson, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (c), Ben Tameifuna, Mahonri Schwalger, Toby Smith. Reserves: Hika Elliot, Sona Taumalolo, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Brendon Leonard, Andrew Horrell, Lelia Masaga.

- APNZ

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